Roundup: Parental Notification Risky for Some Teens

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Roundup: Parental Notification Risky for Some Teens

Brady Swenson

Parental notification can be risky for teens who live in abusive homes; Teens speak out explaining why parental notification is not a good idea; South Dakota's proposed abortion ban is tied in most recent poll; Catholic bishops' narrow anti-abortion effort hurts 'pro-life' cause.

Parental Notification Risky for Some Teens

A regular advice column for teens written in cooperation by a panel of teen commentators and counselor Lauren Forcella, Straight Talk for Teens, asks what teens think of California’s proposed parental notification law.  The responses show that requiring parental notification might seem like a good idea at first blush but the reality many teens face would make parental notification unlikely and even dangerous.  Here are a few of the reponses:

I was pregnant at 16. I refused my boyfriend’s advances for eight
months. The night before he moved we made love. He was gone, I was
pregnant. My parents were hard-core alcoholics and divorced. The first
person to speak face-to-face with me about sex was the nurse at family
planning. Sex-ed consisted of an embarrassing film and my parents were
silent on the topic. I was too scared to tell them, and going to high
school pregnant, pre-Juno, pre-Sarah Palin, was unthinkable. California
wants to remove the right of a young woman to seek an abortion without
parental notification. But a pregnant teen is wiser than you think and
deserves privacy if she feels she needs it. Abortion rates are down.
Girls only seek it as a last resort. Many fear violence, emotional
abuse, or being kicked out — into poverty. What do teens, who can’t
vote, think of losing their rights?

Tip for parents: if you practice open communication with your child,
are loving and supportive, you have nothing to worry about. On the
other hand, if you don’t talk to your kids about safe sex and let
parenting go by the wayside, forfeit your right to be notified. You
aren’t being notified because of the relationship you’ve built and how
you’ve handled past situations. Teenagers should be able to seek a safe
abortion without parental notification if they feel they need to. This
law will only lead to shady, unsafe abortions. I’m glad I can vote.

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The 52-member youth panel of this column is evenly split between
conservative and liberal families, yet almost all want the right to a
private abortion for women under 18 to remain in effect. They know, if
not firsthand, then secondhand, how in the wrong family, a mistaken
teen pregnancy can result in violence, emotional cruelty, and/or a life
of abject poverty. Every step of a pregnant teen’s journey she is urged
to tell her parents. Those who feel unsafe doing so will be made
at-risk by this law. And to think at-risk teens will navigate the
courts for a waiver is naïve. Most won’t. This law is cruel to girls
who already suffer. They have my prayers.

A recent column by a doctor echoes these sentiments and argues against Proposition 4:

As doctors, we encourage our patients to speak with their parents. And we know from research that a majority of adolescents do confide in their parents about the decision to have an abortion.

But as doctors, we need to be there for teens when they can’t talk
to their parents. Prop. 4 puts a barrier between us and the teenagers
that need our care the most.

In a recent survey of California teens, 37% said they would travel out
of state and 12% said they would leave the country to obtain abortion
care if parental notification was required.

Studies show that when young women do not confide in their parents,
they have good reason. One in three of these teens has experienced
violence in their home, is afraid it will recur, or fears being thrown
out of the house. Others are victims of incest, raped by a family
member. No law can force these families to start talking.


South Dakota Abortion Ban Proposal Tied in Polls

The abortion ban proposal, the third of its kind in five years in South Dakota, is tied, 44% supporting and 44% opposing, in the latest Argus Leader poll.  Opponents of the ban are working hard to raise doubts about the workability of the proposal’s new features, exceptions for rape and incest and a very strict exception for the health of the mother, saying that the health exception’s standard is "impossibly high:"

Though the initiative allows an abortion to protect the mother’s
health, abortion rights advocates say the standard is impossibly high: the threat of a major organ failure. They note that a pregnant woman
with breast cancer, for example, couldn’t seek chemotherapy or other
treatment that could cause a miscarriage because an organ was not
immediately at risk.

They also have publicized a memo from attorneys for the state’s largest
hospital chain that warns Measure 11 "will require a physician to
choose between possibly committing a felony or subjecting a pregnant
woman to a higher degree of medical risk than what would otherwise be
clinically desirable."


Catholic Bishops Narrow Anti-Abortion Effort Hurts "Pro-Life" Cause

The editorial board of the National Catholic Reporter joins the chorus of Catholics who are choosing to think more broadly than much of the Catholic leadership about who to support in the presidential election.  For decades now the Catholic Church has "promulgated the same message: Abortion trumps all other issues and the
only credible approach to fighting abortion is voting for candidates
who express a wish to overthrow Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion."  One of the lessons many Catholics have learned over the years is that "the bishops get little in return for their antiabortion political endorsements."  Abortion has steadily reduced since the inception of Roe and Democrats this year, led by Senator Barack Obama, are reaching across the aisle to Catholic leaders like Doug Kmiec to see if a bipartisan approach to reducing abortion through social support programs, improved sex education and access to contraception can be achieved:

The point is significant, especially this year when highly credible
voices in the Catholic community have been successful in reframing a
Catholic approach to the abortion issue. Legal scholars Douglas Kmiec
and Nicholas Cafardi, who have unimpeachable antiabortion credentials,
among others have advanced compelling arguments regarding the futility
of using a legal ban as a political litmus test.

Kmiec, who worked on briefs attempting to overturn Roe,
said earlier this year when explaining his support for Democratic
candidate Sen. Barack Obama: “We have been at the business of trying to
find the elusive fifth vote on the Supreme Court for 30 years. We
haven’t found it and even if we do find it, overturning Roe would not
save a single life, but instead merely return the question to the
states. While that would be important, it is not intended and never was
intended to close the American mind or, for that matter, the Catholic
mind to different or alternative ways to discourage abortion.”

This year, however, Democrats have added a plank to their platform
promising to enact programs aimed at reducing abortions by attacking
some of the root causes, especially among the poor and minorities. It
is distressing to witness so many members of the hierarchy eagerly
dismissing the possibility of an alternative approach.

A post by Silicon Valley-based CityMama blogger, Stefania Pomponi Butler, also does a great job laying out the arguments against Proposition 4 while noting that everyone, not just California’s citizens, should be concerned about the precedent Proposition 4’s passage would set for the rest of the country:

This issue is not just about California.  This proposition should
concern everyone who cares about women’s reproductive rights.  The
people who are trying to pass this proposition see it as a stepping
stone to making it mandatory for teens to have to ask their parents’
permission to obtain birth control. To overturning Roe v. Wade.  If
these issues are of concern to you, if you’d like to government to stay
out of your uterus, please read this.  Your state could be next.