Excellent blog post on the BS that is abortion parental notification laws *link fixed*

I have always been against parental notification laws because it seems like the teenagers that would have the problems with notifying their parents probably have a good reason, and a good relationship with your parents cannot be mandated by some law. It seemed to be these kids who don’t have good parental support would be the least likely to be able to navigate the legal system, and probably have the least social and familial support necessary to be a successful parent, especially a teen parent.

Also, it seemed ironic that a minor is no longer considered a minor and can make medical decisions for herself once she becomes a parent, and supposedly can be trusted to make decisions for an entire new life – her baby, if she decides to continue the pregnancy and gives birth, but she can’t be trusted to make one single medical decision for herself to not continue the pregnancy. And finally, I was worried about abusive parents or parents that would throw a minor out of the house for becoming pregnant.

At a Medical Student for Choice conference, all of the abortion providers on a panel said it was much more common to see parents come in and try to coerce their minor daughters to terminate, and the daughters to be resistant, than the other way around. Of course, they refused to do terminations under those circumstances.

Well, Harriet at Fugitivus has an awesome post up about what the reality is like for teenagers trying to get judicial bypasses. She describes the many situations she sees, from a missing in action dad, to abusive parents, to dead parents, to illegal immigrant parents, to rape victims, etc. Here is an excerpt from the section on abuse victims:

She may know she’s from an abusive family. She may not. She may simply be used to not talking about it, because it’s so shameful. She may not know there’s anything to talk about, assumes that everybody lives this way.

She will not disclose to us, and she has not disclosed to the clinic, because we are complete strangers. The clinic doesn’t have access to her medical records, which could possibly help them discover the history of abuse. The clinic is not her usual doctor, or usual clinic. This girl does not disclose because abortions are performed as something separate and segregated from other routine medical care, and at a time during which this girl may have the guts to tell somebody what is happening to her, she is surrounded by complete strangers, and called a whore and a murderer whenever she tries to access those strangers.

Please read the entire post. It is wonderfully written, as all of her posts are, and it is chilling and moving. But, most of all, it is rooted in practicality and reality. I think a lot of social conservatives want to wag their fingers and think that is all it takes to make other people live the way they think they should ideally live, based on their own particular lofty standards, and then wash their hands of the consequences of what happens when real people don’t meet those standards. I prefer to live and reality, and would like to make reality work better for the most people. Parental notification laws are the opposite of that.


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14 responses to “Excellent blog post on the BS that is abortion parental notification laws *link fixed*

  1. I have never thought about this topic. What a struggle it must be for those teens. Yet another thing to worry about at night (or blog and take political action on).

  2. mommymichael

    i worry about the teenagers who are in an abusive relationship with a much older man who is pressuring her to abort, the clinic does it’s job and puts her right back into the hands of the abuser.

    • MomTFH

      But, refusing to provide the abortion puts her in a more vulnerable and dependent situation, not less. No clinic should perform a coerced abortion, but I can’t see how a pregnancy and birth improves abuse or statuatory rape. Especially when considering how many abusive situations actually involve contraception sabotage – the abuser will actually interfere with birth control (flushing pills down the toilet) or forbid birth control use entirely. Rates of contraception sabotage in abusive relationships of teens run up to 40% or higher. Power and control are the key to an abusive relationship.

  3. @mommymichael: I’m not sure what you imagine the abortion clinic is actually able to do in this circumstance. They’re constrained practically and financially (they provide abortions and medical care, not social services, shelter, or therapy), and they’re completely constrained legally, via HIPPA and mandated reporting laws.

    A clinic is providing medical services, which means they’re legally constrained from divulging confidential information.

    Doctors are mandated reporters, however, so they are required to report abuse, and that supersedes their obligation to HIPPA.

    BUT mandated reporting laws are very specific. They don’t include just rape, or just abuse, but only rape or abuse perpetuated by a member of the household or a member of the family. Mandated reporting laws are about family abuse, not just any abuse.

    So if a girl is being abused by an older man who is not a family member and not living in her household, a clinic is legally prohibited from notifying the police. If the clinic wasn’t providing medical care, they could ostensibly file a report, but since they are providing medical care, they are legally prohibited from doing so. The responsibility for reporting the abuse, in this case, has to lie with everybody else in this girl’s life who knows or learns of the abuse, because only they will not be legally constrained from filing a report (it would, however, be voluntary). A clinic is legally unable, in this circumstance, to make any kind of report at all.

    As a side note, I would personally be very pleased if mandated reporting laws were changed so that any rape of a minor or any abuse of a minor was a reportable offense, no matter who the perpetrator was. I know that in my county, decades ago, mandated reporting laws were changed to include any kind of rape of a minor. Unfortunately, the law was changed back almost immediately, because the courts were quickly clogged to a complete standstill.

    What a clinic can do (and they do) is provide a girl with referrals to rape crisis centers, shelters, or other supportive networks, and offer her counseling on her decision to have an abortion or not.

    What a clinic can also do is provide a girl with the choice to seek an abortion or not.

    All of this also depends upon one enormous “if”, which is “if the girl discloses her abuse.” Since abortion care is segregated from all other medical care in this country, the girl will be in a completely new location with strangers, possibly dealing with deliberately difficult to navigate laws, and preparing herself to be assaulted every time she enters or leaves the clinic. The clinic will not have access to her medical records, which might indicate a history of abuse.

    Disclosing abuse is a very difficult thing to do at any time, for any reason. Isolating a girl and adding significantly more obstructions toward obtaining medical care doesn’t make disclosure more likely. And, of course, abortion is very time-sensitive. There are several obstacles that can add time to the clock, and each day that goes by, an abortion becomes more expensive. Getting an abortion may become a girl’s first priority before she can even consider taking action on anything else in her life. That is, if a girl discloses abuse before an abortion, she may (rightfully) fear that the ensuing legal chaos will delay her abortion to the point where it is now too expensive or no longer legal to acquire. She may also (rightfully) fear retaliation from her abuser, and that retaliation could include attempts to bar her from seeking an abortion.

    I don’t see how prohibiting or condemning clinics from providing abortions to abused girls who seek them makes the girls any less abused. After all, an abused girl probably still attends school. Let’s say a teacher in that school knows the girl is being abused by an older man, but doesn’t report it (remember: the mandated reporting laws don’t cover this, so the teacher doesn’t have to report). Each day that teacher sends the girl away from the school and back to her abuser. The school is doing its job — it’s educating her — and then it’s putting her right back in the hands of the abuser. Should the school be constrained from educating her until it’s willing to report? Should the school be shut down? Should the girl be barred from attending, even if she wants to, even if she believes an education is key to her getting away from her abuser?

    While I understand feeling sick about people who know about abuse and do nothing to assist (though, bear in mind, a clinic actually legally *cannot* assist in this circumstance), restricting a girl’s access to possible resources does not restrict a girl’s access to abuse. I would argue it does quite the opposite.

    • MomTFH

      Harriet, thanks so much for posting. I think we learn so much from people who actually understand the intricacies (legal, practical, etc.) of these situations rather than just debating knee-jerk generalities.

  4. Rebecca S

    Parental notification and judicial bypass is an opportunity for the state to shame and humiliate young women who dared to have sex and dare not to want to be pregnant.

    It does not provide an opportunity for health care providers or the legal system to help those in abusive relationships or broken homes.

    Passing these laws is a chance for politicians to appear pro-choice while appeasing anti-choice constituents, or, to seem not-too-extreme on the matter. Just another example of pregnant bodies as political battlegrounds.

  5. Suzy

    While I am still responsible for the child, I do not want her to be able to go get surgery without my consent. There is reason that children are not able to get tattoos, piercings, and other surgeries without parental consent–because they are still children! No matter how uncomfortable it may be to have to deal with us inconvenient parents, I completely resent being told that my child should have the right to have surgery and take medication without my consent.

    • Kathryn T.

      And there’s the key. . . you’re responsible for your daughter. Read the post, and tell me why the woman should have to track down a man she maybe hasn’t seen in years, if *ever*, to gain HIS permission to have an abortion.

    • MomTFH

      First of all, like another commenter said, you haven’t read or have missed the point of the original post. The reality of the situation means dads who are not responsible or even in contact with their own offspring are being given more of a say in whether their daughters can have a baby than these daughters are. Also, most states protect the ability of teens to seek and receive certain medications like birth control and treatment for STDs without the consent of their parents because it is in the public interest, since many teens would not receive such medications if they needed parental consent. Finally, if you can’t trust your teen with the responsibility of deciding whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term and bring a new life into the world, how can you trust this “child” as you call her to be mature enough to be a parent?

  6. Becky

    Thank you for this post and all of the comments. I am pro-life, and I always thought parental-notification laws were good, but I never thought about consequences like these real life examples. Thank you for being so thought-provoking and realistic! 🙂

  7. Susan Peterson

    I had a situation in which my daughter’s boyfriend, with the connivance of her brother, was planning to get her to an abortion clinic where the two of them would insist she have an abortion. Luckily, my son was not used to driving in the snow and ran our pickup truck off the road, and tried to beg me for the loan of another car, making excuses for why it was so imperative to get to the nearest small city. I had also recently heard from my daughter that the boyfriend had forged his parents signature on a joint account he had with his parents, to get a sum of money which was supposedly to pay off his debt to a record club, a sum which sounded suspiciously like the cost of an abortion. I called the school, and asked the principal to make sure my daughter got on the bus home; she was not to leave with her brother or her boyfriend. I also told him why. He met my daughter at her last class and escorted her to the bus. When she arrived home I confronted her. After getting angry and slapping me at one point, she broke down in tears and admitted she was pregnant. Her boyfriend and brother had told her they were just taking her to have an exam to make sure the test was right. She had no intention of having an abortion. “I love babies too much,” she said.
    Yet I am not sure at all that under pressure from these two boys she loved she would not have gone along with an abortion. Nor do I doubt that the Planned Parenthood clinic would have provided it, unless it were obvious that she were being dragged kicking and screaming against her will. Thank God the principal was on my side, and the school was not in the business of actually helping girls get abortions with their parents knowing nothing about it, as I have heard some schools are. My daughter, who was then 15, and I set about figuring out how we were going to handle this. She had her baby the day after her last Regents exam in tenth grade, and 8 weeks later she was a freshman at the local community college. Her baby went during the day to Mom’s House, a free day care center for single parents who are full time students. (This was also my first year of nursing school, and I worked 35 hours a week in a nursing home as well; I couldn’t raise her baby for her.) She also had to learn to drive to pull this off, (she was 16 by then) which she did. She drove back at noon to nurse her baby, then back to school for afternoon classes. She did very well and graduated from community college when she would have graduated from high school, got a good scholarship to a four year school, and now has a master’s degree. My granddaughter is now a college sophomore, a beautiful and smart young lady.

    How very terrible if her life had been extinguished in the womb because my daughter yielded to pressure and could not see that she had alternatives. That’s where the feelings of parents who want to be notified comes from. I helped my daughter see that she could have her baby and go to college also. That’s the sort of thing one would wish that parents would do when notified.

    Of course they all don’t. And obviously an absentee father who hasn’t been heard from in years shouldn’t be involved. That sort of thing means the law has been written carelessly.

    To say any more would get into deep differences in our beliefs about sex, and in fact about the meaning and purpose of life, about being and non-being. So I won’t say any more. I just wanted to give one parent’s-and grandparent’s personal perspective, from long after the event.

    Susan Peterson

  8. Grace Annam

    Hi, all. I’m participating in a discussion about parental notification and Plan B, which mirrors in many ways the discussion around abortion and parental notification. I want very much to post a link to Harriet’s post from January 3, 2010, entitled “My New Job”. However, it seems to have been taken down. I can’t find it anywhere at Fugitivus or elsewhere online. I have my own archived copy.

    I’m in a quandary. Harriet’s post was so eloquent, so direct, so full of pointed information, that I want to reference it. But if she took it down for a purpose, I don’t want to cause her any problems.

    Did she take it down for a specific reason, or is it just lost due to site maintenance issues?

    Harriet, if you’re listening, may I refer to large swaths of your post? Or would you put it back up so that I can link to it?

    Thank you to anyone who can provide info.


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