Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Does A Parent Have a Right to Know?

I know this has been talked about on this blog before and probably done better, but please humor me.

Those of us that work in the abortion field, and probably many that don't, know that a minor's ability to get an abortion can be a tricky thing. Depending on the state the minor lives in or is going to for their abortion, they may or may not need to have their parents notified or get consent for their abortion.

In 34 states parental involvement in a minor's abortion is required - 20 require parental consent, 10 require parental notification, and 4 require both. There are exceptions to these including a judicial bypass, medical emergency, and 6 states allow a grandparent or other adult relative to be involved instead. For those that might not know a judicial bypass is a process where a minor goes before a judge and that judge decides whether that minor can make the decision without parental involvement. (Stats from the Guttmacher Institute)

What set me off on this is the recent issue of the parental notification law in Illinois. I will try to explain this as clearly as I can. Illinois has a 15 year-old parental notification law that wasn't being enforced, but in November the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board decided to change that. A temporary restraining order was immediately issued - filed by the ACLU of IL. After what to me is a confusing series of grace periods and restraining orders, the law is still not going to be immediately enforced, but the initial restraining order has been lifted. Currently there is a 60-day grace period in effect while appeals are pending.

Do parents really have a right to know? What is it about being a parent that allows you to control every move and decision your child makes? It's not like abortion is illegal (I don't want to hear the argument about if the parent being held responsible if a minor engages in illegal activity - which I don't think is necessarily true). Aren't teens people? I know they're not legal adults, and many if not most or all of them have growing up to do. But why can't they at least have autonomy over their body? Why do parents get to control that? Isn't that weird or wrong to anyone? I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I really don't understand. The pregnant girl/woman is ultimately the person who has to live with the decision that is made, so why can't she make it without interference?


  1. Yes, it is TOTALLY weird. Also, no state requires a minor to get "parental consent" before continuing with a pregnancy. Yes, teen sex and teen pregnancy make a lot of adults uncomfortable. But it's worthwhile, and far better than the alternative, to respect a pregnant teenager's agency to make a decision to have a child, which the law already recognizes; the same holds true for her agency to decide on an abortion, and our laws should reflect that as well.

  2. Don't most teens tell their parents? (I saw the stats for that somewhere)
    Anyways, in many cases parental notification is an "ideal world" argument, in an ideal wolrd all families have open lines of communication and no fear of abuse, but we don't live in an ideal world. Not long ago I heard the story of a girl who got pregnant, and was encouraged by counselors to talk to her parents about it even though she was afraid of them in this situation. Well, she didn't have to worry about being pregnant after that, her father beat her so badly she was in a coma for a week and she miscarried.
    You can't legislate communication, thats a fact.

  3. I've always thought, that if a parent can decide that a girl cannot terminate a pregnancy, then they would also have the right to decide that she *must* terminate a pregnancy.

    Of course, antis would never consider this- what parent would force their daughter into an abortion when she didn't want one? But at the same time, they try to convince us that most women/girls getting abortions are coerced. These two things together make no sense to me.

    If antis really thought that people are people (no matter how small!), then they'd stop treating children, preteens and teenagers like objects to be controlled by their parents.

  4. I don't think that parents have a right to be involved in private medical decisions that their teens don't want them involved in. There are obviously reasons why certain girls go out of their way to keep their parents from knowing and I'm sure those reasons are completely valid.

  5. I honestly do wish all teens could tell their parents and could consult their parents. It's important for the girls and women making a decision like this to have someone they trust to talk to. Like you all have pointed out, not all teens can talk to their parents.

    I think about my niece, and what she would face if she wanted an abortion as a teen. I worry because my sister is strongly anti. What would she do?

  6. I have a young teenage daughter, so I think I understand where the notifcation law supporters are coming from. She is not just a little adult -- she is more of a little girl, who still sleeps with stuffed animals at night and is afraid of the dark. I am legally responsible for her well-being, and I take this responsibility very seriously, so yeah, I admit it, I would want to know if she had a minor medical procedure.

    But when we lived in California, I voted against the last notification proposition that was on the ballot, because I think notification laws do more harm than good. That doesn't mean that I don't hope she wouldn't tell me, if she ever faces a crisis pregnancy while she's in my care. Or anytime....

  7. RV: Just be cool auntie RV and she'll come to your for everything.

    When I worked in Abortionland there were very few teens/children who did not involve at least one parent. Why? Because they have open and honest communication, they need the money, they need a ride, they want to know why they haven't had a period in forever. And I was actually surprised at how little we had to circumvent parental issues. I think this may have to do with trends among low-income folks to become pregnant earlier, thus relieving much of the stigma of being a pregnant teen and making it easier to disclose.

    Also, doesn't consent imply notification? Why would you need both? Are parents signing consent papers blindfolded?

  8. I did not have open and honest communication with my parents. I still don't. I think parental notification laws do more harm than good. Judicial bypass is scary for a teenage girl who has had to deal with nothing like that. I didn't even try getting an abortion in the state I lived in at seventeen, because I knew that there was parental notification. I had to travel to a neighboring state. Thankfully I had that option. Had I not had that option I would have waited to have the abortion until I was 18, which would have made me close to 20 weeks pregnant. That procedure would have cost us more and obviously been more risky.

    My doctor had been trying to put me on BC for years because of super bad cramps that my mom claimed were in my head. She wouldn't allow me to go on birth control because it would "give me permission" to have sex. As though I needed that. Once a store clerk refused to sell my boyfriend and I condoms because we were "too young". Oh yeah, we didn't use any that day. I should have sent her the bill for the abortion.

    Not that all the adults I dealt with as a teenager were clueless. An older lady clerk at a drugstore was very sweet when my silly friend and I walked into the store and started giggling. She brought us to the condom aisle and helped us pick out what would be appropriate. My boss at the time of my abortion was amazing. She was so supportive of my choice, gave me the day off (and the next), told me she was proud of me the night before, lied to my mom (!!!) about where I was, and later when a pregnant girl was trying to get hired, one who was about the same along as I would have been, made sure that I would be 100% comfortable with working with her (I was).

    Parental notification laws are crazy. Parents cannot (not really, though they can be really coercive, watch 16 and pregnant on MTV and Lori's story about a stupid, selfish mom who forced her child to place her baby for adoption) force their child to place a baby for adoption (or not). My mom was too wrapped up in her new marriage to pay any attention to me unless I was bad, and probably would have loved to be a grandma at a super young age because she couldn't have children with her new husband. Had I told my mom I wanted an abortion, she and her husband wouldn't have given consent and today I would be a parent. And not as financially secure as I am now. Not as happy and fulfilled with my life, my marriage. Yes, I would probably have been happy with my child, but I know firsthand what it felt like to be the child that derailed a parents dreams, and it wasn't (isn't) fun. A child should not be born into such circumstances.

    Sorry this is so long, I guess I have a lot to say on this subject!


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