Sunday, April 24, 2005

Parental Notification

Alvin Williams wrote about a very sad case in which a 14 year old girl had an abortion without the parental notification and consent required in her home state of Pennsylvania. In congressional testimony the girl's mother stated that her family, including her daughter, had decided that she would not have an abortion. However, according to her, the girl's boyfriend's family repeatedly harassed and coerced her daughter until she finally permitted them to sneak her into New Jersey, where an abortion could be performed without parental notification.

As I've explained before, I'm reluctantly pro-choice. I subscribe to the Clintonian formulation that abortion should be legal, safe, and rare. However, I can't understand the thinking of anyone who believes that children should be allowed to have abortions without the knowledge and consent of a parent. A 14 year old girl can't get a tooth filled or receive even minor non-emergency medical treatment without the consent of a parent. How in the world can anyone think it's right to let her have an abortion, a life-altering major medical procedure with potential for serious complications, without the consent of a parent?

The only argument I've heard in support of this preposterous view focuses on relatively rare cases where the pregnancy was caused by incest involving a father or other close family member. That argument is specious because in the few cases where incest might be a factor, judicial or family services organizations are involved because both a crime has been committed and the minor needs extraordinary state protection.

The majority of states* have laws requiring parental notification or consent before a minor can have an abortion. In addition, a bill being considered in Congress "would make it illegal to transport minors across state lines for abortions if the purpose is to evade parent notification laws." I hope it passes.

I'd like to see a poll of pro-choice parents with daughters 16 and under. I wonder how many would say "yes" if asked whether their daughters should be able to have an abortion without their knowledge or consent.

This issue is yet another indicator of the need for federal law on abortion. Like other issues, such as gun control, federal regulation is necessary when state laws can easily be circumvented by simply crossing a state line. While I support states' rights and believe in limited federal intervention, I also accept the logic that state power sometimes needs federal support. Moreover, Article IV, Section I of the U.S. Constitution, the "full faith and credit" clause, requires it.

*Planned Parenthood has published a useful summary of state parental notification laws.


Anonymous howard said...

That's kind of eerie. I posted almost exactly a year ago about something close to this. In the last few paragraphs of that entry, I related the story of one of my old friends' little sister, who got a ride across the state line to New Jersey for the same sort of thing. It didn't turn out well.

I don't get the strange logic that tells us to require parental notification for all sorts of less threatening procedures, but for an actual medical procedure, there shouldn't be one? It makes no sense to me either.

8:58 PM, April 24, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

Sometimes parents go NUTS upon hearing their kid is pregnant. Reactions can swing from kicking them out of the home and cutting them off to beating the girl within an inch of her life.

Sure, the average person might be understanding but what if they're not? Or what if she doesn't want the baby but the parents refuse to let her have the abortion? Then what? I think there are many scenerios where a horrible outcome could be possible for telling the parents. Her body, her decision. Perfect world, the girl would feel she could tell her parents. But we all know this isn't a perfect world so why take away a woman or girl's options?

5:21 PM, April 28, 2005  

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