March 16, 2005

Parental Rights

Anything that Little Miss Attila writes is good reading.

Prompted by a recent discussion, which is already linked several places in the 'sphere, Little Miss has written why she disagrees with Parental Notification Laws. I am in support of them, and I thought I would invite myself to the discussion between Right Wing Sparkle and herself. Polite of me, eh?

1) Let's remember that emotional abuse is a lot harder to prove than physical abuse. It's especially difficult for a teenager who has lived with vitriolic language every day to see this as being quite the wrong that it is. And to describe psychological torture to the authorities is difficult as well. The reaction is very likely to be "hm, she said that? Why, young lady—she must have been at her wit's end. Whatever did you do to push her to that point?"

And if the teenager in question has misbehaved in any way—if she's acted out in the least—she'll probably hang her head and say, "well, I got a D in a class."

"There you are," the judge will say, kindly but sternly. "You must stop provoking her." Case dismissed.

This can be true, LMA, and certainly was in many situations for myself. I often look back at the people who were my mother's friends and in whose eyes I saw scorn and wonder how in the world they were so hoodwinked by my mother's dazzling personality. When I meet a precocious young adult who seems bent on pissing off every person in authority, I immediately question what kind of authority lit their stack of wood. However, I do know that the courts are faithful to assign psychological counseling, and it can be gagged, if there is any question as to why a teenager is acting out. I don't know that many people in such precious positions of judgment just hand out a finger-wagging in favor of the parents. I don't deny that it happens, especially when the kid comes from a well-to-do family (like I did). People are far more manipulated by money than they realize. I recall when Columbine occurred and my neighbor couldn't believe that such atrocities would come from such affluent families. I snorted loudly and proceeded to give her a piece of my past. Her comment wasn't completely surprising as I had watched for several years while she placed all her faith for good parenting in the amount of money she was able to procure in order to purchase things that would automatically generate "good children."

So, to not allow for parental consent because of fear that some judge would verbally spank the girl for being naughty isn't logical or profound enough to support keeping parents in ignorance.

2) It's also important to keep in mind that a lot of parents are in favor of abortions, especially for their young daughters! I think a lot of pro-life parents are so busy over-identifying with these parents (and wondering, horrified, if their own kids might ever sneak out and get an abortion themselves) that they lose track of this essential fact. Had I gotten pregnant two years earlier, the pressure on me to terminate would have doubled. I truly believe that the main pressures on young women to have this done come from a) boyfriends and husbands, and b) parents.

Your parental notification law will help you sleep better, but it probably won't reduce abortions.

I agree, LMA. Most parents are in favor of abortions, and I have been privy to some of those parents decision making processes. Unfortunately, I have seen that the heaviest weight in the measure was the saving of reputations as having been "good parents" and coming in a close second was saving the reputation of their daughter. I think you commented on "the site" that initiated this discussion that many women, younger or not, choose abortion because it keeps them from branded.

I won't throw a blanket over all parents. I do think that some encourage and support an abortion for their daughters because they truly believe it is the best thing to do.

I have also witnessed the opposite: parents being supportive of a young woman carrying the child to birth and then giving the baby up for adoption. One young woman with whom R and I were briefly acquainted told us that she would rather wonder about her living child than live without hope and wonder.

Health professionals are also guilty of bestowing the scarlet letter. When I was 21 and delivering E on the charity of the Catholic hospital (due to loss of benefits when R was no longer considered "active duty" although a veteran, but those thoughts will be saved for another day) the treatment I received was far different than when I was 30 and I was delivering K with the help of private insurance. The nurses the first time were condescending and treated me like I was an ignorant idiot. Not all of them, but several. It astounded them that I didn't take drugs, was married to the father, didn't smoke or drink, wanted to nurse, had already planned a post-partum birth control method of the diaphragm, and had nine semesters of college under my belt with full intentions to complete my degree. The sister of a friend experienced the same prejudice when she delivered her first daughter using Medicaid. She thought having obstetrical care and a safe delivery at the expense of the tax dollars she had paid since 16 was better than having none at all.

I also agree that parental notification probably won't reduce the number of abortions. I just don't see it as inherently preventative.

3) Parental notification laws are a cop out for parents. If you want your daughter to trust you, it behooves you to be trustworthy. If you want her to anticipate that you will be supportive when she's having a hard time, the best way to guarantee that is to show her that during other hard times. If all she expects from you is judgment, then you need to examine your parenting style, rather than expecting the state to bail you out.

Well-said, LMA. As the mother of four daughters and one of them a 13 year-old, I can say quite from experience, that it can be very challenging to "seek first to understand, then to be understood" or to be "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." I am fast being induced to listening without attempting to solve or pigeonhole. It is a hard transition to the "coach-friend" stage where we come alongside our growing human beings as a trusted confidant rather than a feared bobby. It doesn't remove our prerogative as parents to hold our kids to account for their choices, nor does it excuse those that compromise good parenting in the name of being their child's friend.

4) Girls and women do die during abortions. But let's be fair: they also die during childbirth. Two or three women die every day in this country due to pregnancy complications. Even here in the U.S. we haven't entirely removed the risk. There are risks either way, and if you haven't ever heard a "birth horror story," you might be spending too much side gathering data from only one side of the fence.

I think the birth horror stories to which RWS was referring were those women that when faced with the choice of abortion or delivering their child, rarely do those whom chose to deliver the child have a story of guilt, depression, or profound regret. Although, on your point, you are correct that there are both risks for either abortion or carrying a pregnancy to term. For a developed country, our stillbirth rate is atrocious, but stillbirths and "birth horror stories" aren't limited to young, adolescent, female bodies attempting to give birth. I know you know that, but just a counterpoint.

Both sides are guilty of presenting evidence that sways heavily in their favor; however, I sincerely have seen in my own personal experience and still believe that the pro-abortion movement leaves out much information in order to more effectively persuade a young woman to choose abortion. The numbers consistently show that more white, middle to upper-middle class women, aged 18-24 get abortions. These women are influenced to think that they simply cannot sacrifice a college education for rearing a child. It amazes me that when a woman does have a child, we fight for her to get all the Federal benefits she can, but when she is contemplating abortion, we never say, "Have the child. There are plenty of programs out there to aid you financially."

My 13 year-old daughter who, no matter what people try to insist otherwise, is not $exually active, and hasn't even ki$$ed a boy (though I won't be ignorant and assert she hasn't and doesn't think about or anticipate it), can hardly manage her emotions well-enough to get along with her sisters. She sometimes stresses out when having to make a choice between outfits. I simply cannot imagine her having an abortion and being able to deal with the emotional weight of it. Nor would I want her support to come from her friends or some equally emotionally immature boy. And I most definitely don't want it to come from someone who doesn't know her from the next girl in the waiting room, but presents the pretense of "understanding." I find it incredibly subversive to the rights I have as a parent to guide, educate, protect, and provide for my child.

I am the one who conceived her. I am the one who gave birth to her. I am the one who nourished her from my own body, both inside and out, for 22 months. I am the one who has sheltered, feed, clothed, educated, and loved her. No one holds the health, physical or emotional, of my daughter as her highest priority and most humble calling than I. No one is a better advocate for her than myself. No one.

Some may argue that while it's just great that my daughter is loved and cared for, but that there are many who aren't, so what about them? Show me a situation where a young girl has been forced by her parents to deliver a child she didn't want to deliver, and I am not talking about "back in the day." As soon as a young woman showed any resistence to such an "aggrievement," Planned Parenthood via the ACLU and NOW would take up her battle cry. She could receive protected anonymity; Norma McCorvey didn't reveal her identity until the 1980's and it was by her own doing.

Parents can be sued for the misbehavior of their children. They can be held accountable for the debt incurred by their children. The 17 year-old daughter of a friend couldn't even get holes poked into her ears without a parent physically present to be witnessed signing consent. When my 13 year-old had a breast biopsy, I had to give my permission to allow the operation. I had to state that I understood both the purpose and the risks of such an undertaking. I had to commit to follow-up visits to ensure healthy recovery. She has to be reminded daily to wear her elastics and to floss her teeth. Make it to a post-abortion appointment?

I find it incredible that I should find it acceptable that my daughter can go to a clinic, be anesthetized without my permission, have her cervix dilated without my permission, a vacuum inserted into her dilated cervix and the "contents" of her cervix sucked out. I don't think this acceptable whether a parent is pro-life or pro-abortion. I also find it deplorable and unacceptable that someone else should be allowed to guide her tenuous mental and emotional state before, during, and after such an operation.

I am for parental notification simply because as a parent, I have the right to know and be involved in the life of my child, whether she wants me to be or not.

Posted by Rae at March 16, 2005 10:18 AM | TrackBack

Nicely said. Plenty to think about, here.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 16, 2005 02:17 PM

"I am the one who conceived her. I am the one who gave birth to her. I am the one who nourished her from my own body, both inside and out, for 22 months. I am the one who has sheltered, feed, clothed, educated, and loved her. No one holds the health, physical or emotional, of my daughter as her highest priority and most humbling calling than I. No one is a better advocate for her than myself. No one."

I couldn't put it better myself -- thanks for articulating this truth so well.

Posted by: Carrie K. at March 16, 2005 02:43 PM

Well, your personal story had me crying. Now my makeup is all messed up...Thanks..;-)
One organization I have worked with..The Nurturing Network realizes that most abortions occur with women just like you and they cater to that.

The thing is, as we all know, our hormones go nuts and then add morning sickness and all the fear, so many women just choose that "easy way." and no one in the family knows the difference. Or the boyfriend is not as loving as yours was.

I found in counseling that most girls just want SOMEONE to say that this isn't the end of the world and that someone will be there to support them. Truly, this is what most of them needed. My personal experience had most parents upset at first, but supportive when talked to. (But I live in Texas, so maybe a more pro-life view here, I don't know)

One more thought about parental notification. The teen years are hard between moms and daughters even if they have had a great relationship. A young girl may just not want to disappoint. Or have a boyfriend insisting. WE all remember how we were influenced at that time in our lives. Depending on having the "values instilled" doesn't always work when there is so much pressure and fear.

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at March 16, 2005 03:28 PM

You have a true gift of words, Rae. Although I agree with you on the entire matter, I never thought about how I would debate this touchy subject. You know me, debate is a weakness I have, but I am getting better, thanks to you.

"Lucky" for me, I abstained during my high school and college years (clarify-intercour$e) because of two examples that scared me enough to keep my pants on.

Posted by: Amy Jo at March 17, 2005 10:58 AM

LMA- thank you. Thanks also for providing an engaging springboard.

Carrie K- Thank you, too.

RWS- true. So we must keep talking and being a part of their lives, even in discreet ways, so they know that we are trustworthy. "Be what you want to see."

Amy Jo- "There but for the grace of God go I." I know what you mean.

Posted by: Rae at March 17, 2005 12:33 PM

Studies prove that parental notification laws reduce abortion rates. I think part of the reason is because girls have a stronger reason to say 'no' to sex if the stakes of pregnancy are higher. In that way, parental notification laws have a teaching effect.
Research also shows that all youth risk behavior (smoking, drinking, sexual activity, drug use and violent behavior) are all reduced by kids percieving a sense of "connectedness" with their parent(s) and with their schools. This is great news because it means that parents are very able to affect the behavior of their children.
Parental notification laws have their flaws because they are broad rules of public policy and, with most laws, do not take into account all the potential circumstances that may arise.
Most parents believe that they have a right to direct the medical care of their unemancipated children. Party because they are on the hook financially and relationally should complications arise.
In Kansas, the Attorney General is investigating how Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics have aided and covered up crimes of sexual abuse against minor girls. In those cases, the clinics themselves are guilty of a crime.
Abortion is at its most fundamental level an exploitation of women. Anything, including parental notifcation laws, that can reduce the exploitation of women is a positive thing.

Posted by: pdubdc at March 24, 2005 04:18 PM
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