Parents still matter

March 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Statistics suggest that perhaps as many as 1 in 5 of the legally perfomed 1.2 million abortions which take place in the United States each year are to minors below the Age-of-Consent. Consent varies by state but generally speaking we are identifying young women below the age of 18 for the purposes of this discussion.

Roughly 35-40 states have some form of parental notification- and/or consent- requirement that a minor seeking a legal abortion must obtain before proceeding. Some states do better than others at enforcing these varying laws. In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled in “Planned Parenthood v. Casey” that states with such laws must not create an “undue burden” on the young woman if they are unwilling or unable to communicate with their parent(s). Setting aside the wisdom (or lack thereof) of this ruling, the court’s remedy has set forth the alternative of seeking a court order to obtain the abortion instead of parental consent.

While there may be legitimate reasons why a minor is recalcitrant to receive permission or counsel from parents (i.e. she became pregnant through rape or incest from a member of the family; parent(s) may be absent or legally defined as not competent) the alternative of court sanction strikes at the heart of the family as the seat of counsel, caring, and instruction in favor of the State.

Many teens may be ashamed or worried about the negative reaction and anger their parents might have upon hearing that they have gotten pregnant. However, other types of age-inappropriate or anti-social behavior teens might get involved in (i.e. drugs, alcohol, shoplifting, bullying, breaking curfew or other family rules) don’t come with any expectation of privacy as the SC’s diminishing of parental consent does. Similarly, teens seeking other types of invasive medical procedures (i.e. plastic surgery) require permission. The morality of the act of abortion is just one of the thorny issues that a teenager must weigh before proceeding. Besides the psychological scars that some receive there are also possible physical effects such as infections, reproductive system injuries, and a later inability to conceive (among other health risks). Providing a confidential access to abortion outside the knowledge or consent of a parent could lead to emboldened sexual activities without censure or consequences.

Can the average adult effectively navigate through such a painful process without a sturdy support network? If the answer is “not likely”, than the difficulties would seem to be even greater for a youth.

It is parents or guardians that ultimately must communicate with, instill their values, and be advocates for their dependents unless we are contemplating a wholesale change in the way human society operates. While no family is perfect, parents are still likely to be the best counselors and advisors a pregnant teen will have. Parents are not simply a caretaker providing monetary support, shelter, and food- they must be allowed to be much more to prevent the further splintering and dysfunction of our society.

One small step in rebuilding the primacy of the family is to sharpen- not weaken- parental consent or notification laws for guidance in a teen’s most difficult hour.

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