Young Father Comes of Age After Losing Abortion Battle

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - When Nicholas DiGiovanni left his small-town home just outside of New Orleans for college in 1997, things like abortion and raising a child could not have been further from his teenage mind.

But when a short romantic relationship during his second year of college resulted in a pregnancy, DiGiovanni had no choice but to start thinking about it. And think about it he did.

What began as a simple objection to his girlfriend's growing determination to have an abortion led to a firm conviction of fatherly responsibility toward his unborn child, and it wasn't long before he was offering to raise the child completely on his own. He soon found himself embroiled in a full-blown court battle to preserve the unborn baby's life.

DiGiovanni was a 19-year-old sophomore at Louisiana Tech University when he filed a lawsuit that imposed an abortion injunction on his pregnant girlfriend in 1999. The injunction held up for weeks, but was eventually overturned. The young woman immediately responded by having the abortion.

DiGiovanni's case was not unlike that of John Stachokus, who went to court in Pennsylvania July to stop his girlfriend, Tanya Meyers, from having an abortion.

Like DiGiovanni, Stachokus did not prevail, and both cases illustrate the three-way tug-of-war over a woman's legal right to abort her unborn baby, the child's right to life, and the father's right to have any say in the matter.

'Fatherhood Breeds Fatherhood'

DiGiovanni, whose parents raised him and his two sisters Catholic, remembers his childhood fondly, telling that much of the person he is today can be attributed to the values instilled in him by his father.

"Fatherhood breeds fatherhood," DiGiovanni explained, saying that, although he left for college not having given much thought to such matters as abortion, his eventual decision to take a strong pro-life stance essentially stemmed from what his father taught him about responsibility.

DiGiovanni's early frat-house days were what he called the "typical college lifestyle," saying he was too busy "partying and not really thinking about anything other than myself and where I'm going to drink tonight" to consider any issue as serious as abortion.

"I didn't really know what abortion was or anything," DiGiovanni said, recalling how he had to look up the word 'contraception' in the dictionary. "I had no idea whatsoever. All I knew was she was pregnant and that she was talking about abortion."

"She was confused, she was obviously very emotional, [and] she didn't want to be a mother," said DiGiovanni, who became equally convicted that he had a responsibility to protect their child.

"I spent a lot of time praying about it and I realized, you know, that I have a good father and I always wanted to be the same father to my child that my father was to me," DiGiovanni said. "I [wanted] to assume my responsibilities [for] the action that I made, even though the initial action wasn't good."

Desperation Prompts Legal Action

After several attempts to set up counseling sessions and convince his former girlfriend that he "wasn't just going to leave as soon as the baby was born," DiGiovanni said he grew desperate and decided to seek legal assistance.

"Basically, time was crunching and I had to do something," DiGiovanni said.

DiGiovanni said he contacted several lawyers before finding one that would even talk to him, but managed to find an attorney who was able to obtain an injunction that was served to the pregnant woman on her way to the abortion clinic, preventing the abortion.

"I was basically saying, 'hey, I'm suing for my fatherhood here,'" DiGiovanni said. "If she didn't want to be a mother, then at least [she should] carry the baby and let me be a father."

The last-minute injunction survived almost four weeks before being overturned in later court proceedings.

DiGiovanni said his former girlfriend "had lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy that literally tried everything they could to kill my child as quickly and as efficiently as possible."

"They were fighting ruthlessly to kill my child and they don't even know me, they don't know her, they don't know my baby," he said.

When the original injunction was overturned, the student's only hope was to appeal, but DiGiovanni said it was the end of the week preceding the Easter holiday, and he was unable to take action in time.

The abortion was performed on Good Friday, 1999, rendering DiGiovanni's case legally moot.

Continuing the Fight Against a 'Culture of Death'

DiGiovanni's battle for his unborn child was bigger than he anticipated, attracting almost as much media attention as opposition.

Since the case more than three years ago, he has been determined to preserve the memory of his unborn baby - named Baby Genesis - in order to further the pro-life cause and fight against what he calls a "culture of death."

DiGiovanni, 23, is now a junior studying psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. In addition to his position as editor of a pro-life newsletter published by the American Life League, DiGiovanni's other endeavors include his work with Crossroads, a nationwide "walking pilgrimage" for college-aged students seeking to "witness to the sanctity of human life."

Participants, who began walking in San Francisco in May, reached their Washington D.C. destination Thursday.

For DiGiovanni, preserving life means ensuring that Baby Genesis has a positive impact on people's lives.

"That's what I'm here to do, and that's what I've been trying to do for the past couple years," he said. "And hopefully will have the opportunity to do for the rest of my life."

E-mail a news tip to Jessica Cantelon.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.