Thursday, January 19, 2006

Gah, parental notification laws are so irrational

A coworker of mine once and I had an discussion about parental notification laws that just spun my head.

She announced that they were a bad idea because rapists were taking their victims to get abortions. I pointed out that an older guy who impregnates a younger girl and is responsible enought to take her to a clinic might technically be a "rapist," but he's likely also a "boyfriend" and that my relationship with my folks really sucked in high school, but I would have gone to my mom if I needed an abortion. So any underage girl who didn't go to her folks probably was worried about getting abused.

At that point, we figured we should agree to disagree and we moved on. But it was helpful to get a glimpse into the head of someone who agreed with parental notification laws as I'd really not understood how anyone could reasonably support them.

Whenever I don't understand how anyone could believe something political, I try to find out from a reasonable person who is more liberal or more conservative than I am. Often I've been bitched at by liberals especially who couldn't even entertain the possiblity that a non-monster could disagree with them and I have had many variations on this conversation:

"Head start! How could you POSSIBLY be against greater funding of HEAD START! Don't you CARE about the POOR at all? Or are you some sort of SELFISH CONSERVATIVE who doean't care about kids in the innner city?"

"Um... Head Start does sound really good. But when psychologists have studied it, they have shown that the effects of head start wear off. Even if you send a kid to the best nursery school in the world when you send them on to a badly underfunded inner-city school later, by fourth grade they are going to be right where the other kids are. So it seems reasonable to me to take the money you'd use on Head Start and use it to improve the schools at higher grades or do something else with it, because if what we're doing is wearing off, we're wasting the money now."

"Oh. Well, I still disagree, but OK..."

Now you can agree with my argument to not have Head Start, which was really mostly for the sake of conversation, I don't really know what I think, or you can say that psychologists have also shown that the nursery school years are a critical time for learning and if that learning isn't sticking we should try another form of Head Start as it should work somehow.

But my point is, we are reasonable people having a conversation.

So at the time, I accepeted my coworker's thesis that parental notification laws can lead to more statutory rapes. As far as I knew, she could be right. There were no studies showing the proportion of girls worried about being abused to girls worried about getting punished.

But now there is good evidence that would seem to indicate that underage girls who want abortions have a good reason for asking for them. According to the Orlando Sentinel, in the last six months of last year, 120 underage girls went before judges and asked to be allowed to have abortions without telling their parents.

Of those requests, only eight were ultimately denied.

This suggests to me that the Florida judiciary has understood why a girl didn't want to tell her parents 112 times and found her reasons spurious only eight times. (OK, technically 11 girls were denied, but three got the ruling overturned on appeal.)

I think I'm going to need a better argument to understand why people would support these laws now.



Will said...

I've representive girls in judicial bypass proceedings and they generally havent been a problem.

I guess my feeling is the generally I would prefer a girl to talk with and get her information from her parents instead of her best friend. I am not very confident in another 13 yr old to provide non-emotional, reasoned advice. Moreover, from the provider perspective, it is nice to have the family on board.

On whole, I am more concerned about her making an informed, intelligent decision, than I am about insuring that she gets an abortion. For the most part, the result is the same.

Chalicechick said...

My guess is that if a judge lets a girl have an abortion without telling her parents, said judge has decided that the girl has a reason for wanting to do so.

Again, I didn't get along with my folks in high school and I'm certain I would have told them.

My guess is that any girl who wouldn't is afraid of getting abused or kicked out of the house.


Anonymous said...

I have a visceral dislike for parental notification laws. But I am going to contradict your belief that teenagers only want to avoid telling parents if they fear abuse. Hugo Schwyzer has noted that in the youth group at his very liberal church, most of the kids really balked at the notion of sharing this kind of decision with their parents.

As a teenager, I most certainly would not have told my parents that I was pregnant and opting for abortion if I could at all avoid it. I wouldn't have been afraid of abuse, but I would have felt very strongly that it was a private decision and I wouldn't have wanted my parents to pressure me in any way to make a different decision. Parents have all sorts of ways to control the outcome of an abortion decision. I personally would be pretty bitter if my parents had made a decision for me that would affect the rest of my life.

Chalicechick said...

Would you have been willing to face a judge to get a judicial bypass?

Even if I had feared abuse, I almost wonder if a 14-year-old me would have feared that more.

While I trust you, HF, to know your own mind, I don't know that the kids at Hugo Schwyer's church know quite what they would do in a situation they haven't been in.

I haven't had one myself, but my understanding is that abortion is fairly significant surgery. I might not have wanted my Dad to find out, but though my mom isn't the most supportive creature in the world, what support she had to give, I would have needed.

But if you asked me in front of my friends, I would have assured you that I could handle things on my own.


Anonymous said...

I know that I went to my parents -- though I was scared to tell my mother and told my father instead. First, though, I made arrangements for the abortion. It had been legal for two or three months at that time.
It's not major surgery -- it's a "D&C" -- a dilation and currettage. Minor surgery.

LaReinaCobre said...

I would be interested to know if there are any statistics about mental, emotional and medical health issues (if any) following underage girls' abortions.

I grew up very religious and I don't know that I would have told my parents if I had ever somehow managed to become pregnant. Not because my parents are abusive or I was fearful of them; I would not have wanted to disappoint them.

These girls who went to court - were they represented by lawyers? Were they anonymous? I wonder what it takes to engage in these proceedings?

I have mixed feelings on the issue. I feel like we're not asking the right questions here, and so none of the answers really take care of us.