Thinking About Parental Consent

Parental consent laws, which require a pregnant minor’s parents to give her permission to have an abortion, are fairly popular, even among moderates and liberals. Putting aside the fact that parental consent/notification laws have been shown to increase later-term abortions rather than decrease abortion overall and therefore aren’t really “pro-life” at all, we should also consider how much control we want to give parents over their daughers’ reproductive lives. Case in point:

After disclosing to her parents that she was pregnant, a 19-year-old Maine girl was allegedly bound with rope and duct tape by the parents, who then allegedly attempted to drive the girl to an abortion clinic in New York on Friday for an emergency abortion, police said.

This is not pro-choice. Our movement is focused on the rights of women — all women, even minor women — to make their own decisions when it comes to pregnacy, childbirth, and reproductive health. The anti-choice side is hell-bent on taking those choice rights away. And it would do them well to consider the fact that a government which can take away your right to prevent pregnancy can also take away your right to carry pregnancies to term. Laws which require parental consent for abortion or birth control can easily be taken a step further and require parental consent for childbirth.

As Ann says, “I’m personally proud not to be on the side that’s advocating for more parental involvement in teens’ decisions on abortion.”

Check out the rest of her Weekly Feminist Reader as well.


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25 comments for “Thinking About Parental Consent

  1. C. Diane
    September 18, 2006 at 11:57 am

    Laws which require parental consent for abortion or birth control can easily be taken a step further and require parental consent for childbirth.

    You know, that’s one of the things that jumps out as a glaring inconsistency in NC state medical law.
    1. A pregnant minor is emancipated and can make any decisions regarding prenatal care as an adult.
    2. Contraception is on the do-not-tell list (as are antibiotics for STD treatments and medications for mental health and substance abuse.)
    3. NC has a parental consent law for abortion.
    4. So the minor is emancipated if she carries the fetus to term, regardless of maturity or ability to care for the child, but if she wants an abortion, she needs permission.

    I expressed this opinion to an older classmate of mine as we were learning NC pharmacy law, and she said, “but abortion is so dangerous! Her parents need to know!” Right, and childbirth is easy?

  2. Amy
    September 18, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    Personally, I think this is the logical conclusion of laws that suggest that a teenager’s parents have the power to make her most fundamental reproductive decisions for her. Sure, strapping her down and taking her to the clinic might appear to violate her basic human right to bodily integrity, but who cares about human rights in the US, any anyway she’s not even an adult, what rights does she have, she’s her parents’ property.

    I wonder what would happen if a teenager needed some other necessary treatment besides abortion but the parents were anti-medicine or whatever and wouldn’t agree to it, even though the child was begging for permission. Would she be allowed to overrule her parents’ wishes and get the treatment without their permission, especially if she couldn’t pay for it and they wouldn’t?

  3. D
    September 18, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    You know, that’s one of the things that jumps out as a glaring inconsistency in NC state medical law.
    1. A pregnant minor is emancipated and can make any decisions regarding prenatal care as an adult.
    2. Contraception is on the do-not-tell list (as are antibiotics for STD treatments and medications for mental health and substance abuse.)
    3. NC has a parental consent law for abortion.
    4. So the minor is emancipated if she carries the fetus to term, regardless of maturity or ability to care for the child, but if she wants an abortion, she needs permission.

    I expressed this opinion to an older classmate of mine as we were learning NC pharmacy law, and she said, “but abortion is so dangerous! Her parents need to know!” Right, and childbirth is easy?

    It seems to be about making the crime known. Pregnancy is self evident that someone had sex. If she has an abortion, at the very least her parents should be able to know what a horrible slut she is.

  4. Erin
    September 18, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    I have a question about this case…the girl was 19, correct? So doesn’t that make her legally an adult and medically and every other way, able to make her own decisions? So, in this case, parental consent laws wouldn’t be an issue anyway, correct?

  5. Casey
    September 18, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Erin, that’s exactly what I was thinking. This article refers to her as a “girl” more times than I cared to count, but if she’s 19, she’s an adult! Or do these laws count adults as 21?

  6. September 18, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    I with Erin and Casey, that is not a girl it is a woman, and she should be able to make her own choices.

    We have been making children of our younger adults and it needs to stop, along with the nanny state mentality and the right wing do gooders.

  7. Broce
    September 18, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    It’s especially interesting that a 19 year old is described as a girl, but when a 14 year old female was raped in Iraq, the news stories consistently described her as a woman, or a young woman.

  8. September 18, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    I think the point to opposing parental consent laws isn’t that this woman is of age, it’s that her parents are psychotic. And presumably if she’d become pregnant two years earlier, her being a minor would not magically save them from their psychosis. If she were 17 they probably still would’ve gone the duct-tape-and-shotgun route.

    In a case where the parents are unstable and potentially violent, NOT telling them may be the safest choice. That’s how this case, despite involving an adult woman, is relevant to the parental notification debate.

    And it sounds like the young woman had tried to cut the parents out of her life during her pregnancy. She secretly moved in with her boyfriend while telling her parents she was still out of state at university. Given the magnitude of that lie (not that I *blame* her, because they’re nuts), it sounds like she wanted them nowhere near her, or her baby after it’s born.

    What if it were the other way round? What if she desperately wanted an abortion and the parents decided to go all shotgun-and-duct-tape on her to force her to stay pregnant? If an underage girl has the kind of nut job parents who think duct tape and a shotgun are a good solution to ANYTHING, then she shouldn’t be required to tell them and thereby put her life and freedom in danger.

    Most underage girls who have abortions DO tell their parents, regardless of whether they’re legally bound to or not. The ones who don’t tell their parents are usually the ones who are scared stiff of what will happen if their parents find out, and they’re probably right to be scared.

  9. Cecily
    September 18, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    Dumb question from someone in a state without parental notification (at least until this election goes through)…does it generally require one parent’s signature, or both?

    I’m agin’ it in either case, but I’m curious.

  10. Julie
    September 18, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Cecily, I believe it varies from state to state. I think that most require only one, but some states require both.

  11. September 19, 2006 at 2:52 am

    Broce, maybe it’s because the Bush Press is trying to insinuate that the girl who was raped and murdered was somehow “old enough” to be asking for it.

    At any rate, it’s “parents” like these who obviously should’ve been subjected to mandatory birth control AT BIRTH. They obviously are not mature nor intelligent enough to realize that a) their daughter is a legal adult (as long as she doesn’t try to get drunk whilst getting knocked-up), b) their control over her reproductive organs is long-since gone, c) NO REAL PHYSICIAN ON THE PLANET WOULD PERFORM AN ABORTION UNDER DURESS TO THE PATIENT, and d) any “doctor” (back-alley/unlicensed/etc.) who WOULD perform an abortion under these hostage circumstances would probably, through infection and malfaesance, render the girl PERMANENTLY INFERTILE, if not DEAD.

    I knew a girl whose parents basically did the same thing to her as they tried to do to this girl. The girl I knew was 15, though, so since the “parents” had money and some connections, nobody said a PEEP, and the majority of that small southern town never had a clue that anything had transpired. The “bible student” who’d knocked her up went on to a career in the non-denominational/charismatic church industry, the “father” who’d taken her to a back-alley hack (even though abortion had been legal in Louisiana since before that girl was born) instead of a legal, clean, safe, licensed women’s clinic, where somebody might SEE THEM, never once had to give up his seat as head deacon of the First Baptist Church.

    And the girl, when last I saw her, was a severe alcoholic and divorced at 22 (married at 19) because she can never enjoy sex or have children. I can only hope that, by now, she has found her way to a really good therapist.

    So yeah, good “christian” parents really do know how to teach their kids to “abstain” — by having them mutilated to the point that they’ll never want or enjoy sex ever again.

    But those “parents” in Maine ought to be put into a mental hospital, and never allowed to drive, procreate, buy weapons or ammo, or vote, ever again.

  12. September 19, 2006 at 5:31 am

    When it comes to reproductive choices, I was declared no longer a “girl” around the age of 26.

  13. September 19, 2006 at 8:28 am

    The thing that makes me think is that most states, the age of consent for having sex is 16. While there are many states where the age AoC is as high as 18 there are a few where the AoC is lower for girls then it is for boys. In the south most of the AoC laws are at 16 (GA was 14 until 1994). The point here is that while there is a lot of fuss about parental consent for minors, the laws on the books say that at 16 a women can legally consent to sex but then if she becomes pregnant, she has to have a permissions slip to terminate her pregnancy.

    I mean where is the move to raise the AoC in those states where it is lower then 18? And why is it that southern states tend to have their AoC at the lower end of the scale?

    I mean talk about mixed messages: The state says that your old enough to consent to have sex, but your too young to deal with the results.

  14. bmc90
    September 19, 2006 at 8:54 am

    Rick, the point of low ages of consent is so that men can have sex with young girls without getting charged with statutory rape. More rural states have always had a younger age of consent. Interesting since we tend to associate the rural south with the bible belt, but apparently a younger age is assumed for sexual experience in those states. In my public high school in suburban Atlanta, I’d say the norm was 16 or 17 really.

  15. Thomas
    September 19, 2006 at 9:09 am

    BMC, 16 or 17 is the norm nationwide, and it was my experience in Connecticut as well.

  16. Rhiannon
    September 19, 2006 at 10:52 am

    And why is it that southern states tend to have their AoC at the lower end of the scale?

    Living in one of those “southern states” I can tell you that it’s because older guys want to have sex with teenage girls. Not cause anyone thinks teenage girls are mature enough to handle it. That’s the patriarchy for ya’!

  17. Raging Moderate
    September 19, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Living in one of those “southern states” I can tell you that it’s because older guys want to have sex with teenage girls. Not cause anyone thinks teenage girls are mature enough to handle it. That’s the patriarchy for ya’!

    Since 1890, in Canada the age of consent is 14, with 2 exceptions:

    1. It drops to 12 as long as the partner is no more than 2 years older.

    2. The other exception is if the partner is in a position of authority.

    Our current Conservative Government wants to change the age of consent to 16. Unsurprisingly, support for this new legislation is mostly confined to religious groups.

    Opposition to the new law stems from the fact that the average Canadian girl has sex for the first time at 14.5 years of age, and boys at 14.1 years. Opponents (including women’s groups, and child welfare groups) argue that changing the law will force younger, sexually active children to hide their activity, increasing their vulnerability to predators, and decreasing the likelihood that they will use contraception or sexual health services.

    But we’re weird like that. We have a low age of consent, gay marriage is legal, abortion at any stage of the pregnancy is legal (and paid for by the government), and you only get a ticket if found with 28 grams of pot or less.

    I guess that’s because older Canadian men want to get young girls stoned, have sex with them, have their pregnancies aborted, and then force them into same sex marriages.

    It can’t be because we realize that these things should not be criminalized.

  18. September 19, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    Our movement is focused on the rights of women — all women, even minor women

    But it excludes unborn women.

  19. September 19, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    But it excludes unborn women.

    Right. And fertilized egg women. And spirit-women. And ghost women. And various women who have yet to exist.

  20. September 19, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    Hey Tony, when’s the last time you heard of someone giving birth to a woman?

  21. Casey
    September 20, 2006 at 11:22 am

    I love how one link off of the Blogs for Life trackback suggests that forced abortions are an “epidemic.”

  22. bmc90
    September 20, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    Casey, even if they were right, do they really think that such sickos would be the least bit deterred by the illegality of the proceedure? As it is, abortion doctors who get a whif of coercion, especially where they suspect incest, promptly call the cops. Think a back alley abortionist is going to pick up the phone?

  23. Casey
    September 20, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    bmc90,

    Exactly. If someone is going to kidnap a young woman to force her to have an abortion, they don’t strike me as the type to say, “Oh, gee, Roe V. Wade’s reversed? Well, I guess I’ll have to untie you from the backseat now. Golly.”

    It brings to mind the article I read about a year ago about pro-lifers getting abortions. One woman, while on the table, called her doctors murderers and told them they’d burn in Hell, and they refused her the procedure. I can’t imagine any doctor would perform an abortion on someone who said they didn’t want it and begged for help. But hey, it’s not about taking care of women in bad situations, it’s all about murdering babies, doncha know?

  24. Kasia
    September 21, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Hey Raging Red,

    That’s totally specious – if you’re going to call someone a ‘minor woman’ (down to what age?) there’s no principled distinction between ‘minor woman’, ‘child woman’, ‘toddler woman’, and ‘infant woman’, much less ‘unborn woman’. And my mother trumpeted the word ‘woman’ from the time I was a munchkin, thank you.

    Jill,

    If they have yet to exist, then there should be no need to abort them. I mean, how can you abort something that doesn’t exist?

    Kasia

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