November 3, 2005
Parents Should Be Notified
The logic doesn't work. By definition, minors who get pregnant are
less mature than those who do not -- in general, they belong to
the subset of teens who have sex but don't use birth control at
all or correctly, as opposed to teens who either use birth control
consistently or abstain from having sex. So it doesn't make sense
to have laws, like those in California, that give the least responsible
teens more rights than are accorded a responsible teen who wants
seriously considered voting against Proposition 73, a constitutional
amendment that would require parental notification or a judge's
waiver before a minor has an abortion.
not support an initiative that made a pregnant teen carry an unwanted
child. Proposition 73 does not require parental consent. An earlier
law requiring parental consent was overturned by the California
Supreme Court, thus this measure requires only that doctors notify
a parent of a pending abortion, without requiring parental consent,
unless a judge grants a waiver.
As it is,
countless teens are having sex without parental knowledge or consent.
That's why we don't want laws that would deny minors access to
birth control -- and Proposition 73 explicitly states that it
would not apply to "any contraceptive drug or device."
question is: Should California law be based on families in which
parents are abusive, or should it address the majority of parents
who are responsible and only want what is best for their children?
I have to come down on the side of the majority of good parents,
especially when the judicial bypass exists for daughters of abusive
a parent vote for this measure? Becky Morgan, a former GOP state
senator and mother of an obstetrician-gynecologist, told me she
will vote "no" because of teens who don't have the type
of relationship that makes them feel they can tell their parents.
Morgan is a founder of Planned Parenthood's Teen Success program
-- which helps teenage mothers stay in school without getting
pregnant again -- and has seen "mothering teenagers who have
been kicked out of their homes." These are girls who cannot
go to a parent.
will always remember the teenager who said, 'My father gave my
boyfriend a key to the house, and when I got pregnant, he threw
me out,'" Morgan noted.
Morgan on that: I don't want laws that would result in a pregnant
teen getting thrown out of the house. That's why the judicial
bypass is so important.
other side of the argument deals with teens who could tell their
parents, but simply don't want to -- just as they wouldn't want
to tell their folks if they cracked up the family SUV. Savvy teens
know that they can avoid telling their parents they're pregnant
and get a tax-funded abortion by pleading poverty -- whether they
are poor or not. Their parents will never be the wiser. That represents,
in the truest sense, government intrusion into families' lives.
It is the
parents, after all, who will have to pick up the pieces if there
are any problems, rare though that may be, following a minor's
In my mind,
this measure is not about abortion, but parental rights. I agree
with those proponents and opponents who have predicted that if
Proposition 73 passes, there will be little change in either the
number of abortions or teen pregnancies in California.
As I see
it, Planned Parenthood can help those teens who need a judicial
waiver negotiate the legal system. On the other hand, pregnant
teens from good homes who don't want to take on that hassle of
going to court might be more likely to tell their folks. One hopes
that their parents will ensure that they use birth control thereafter,
and thus prevent repeat teen pregnancies.
It is true:
Some teens might be afraid to go to court. Morgan tells me Planned
Parenthood won't have enough volunteers to usher teens throughout
California to local courts. I say: then Planned Parenthood will
have to choose which cases seem worthy.
minors to have surgery without their parents' knowledge should
be the exception, not the rule. As the late and liberal Justice
Stanley Mosk wrote in a 1996 decision that upheld a parental consent
law -- later overturned -- legal restrictions on minors "are
premised on a fundamental social tenet that children require protection
against their own immaturity and vulnerability in making decisions
that may have serious consequences for their health and well-being."
California law presumes that parents are less mature or sensitive
than their children, if their daughters are pregnant. If the law
won't trust parents of pregnant teens, then it can withhold decision-making
in other areas, like education.
wants to devise a better way to write a law that protects parents'
rights -- say, one that separates the kids who just don't want
to tell their parents from those who dare not -- I am all ears.
2005 Creators Syndicate