News Abortion

Why Parental Notification Is Complicated

Robin Marty

A doctor explains what happened to a patient she counseled to tell her parents about having sex.

When those who seek to put restrictions on teens obtaining abortions discuss parental notification laws, they often argue that a child has absolutely no right to a medical procedure without a parent at least being aware of the situation.  They fight the idea of judicial review, believing that few teens will really be subject to any sort of abuse at home should their parents learn about their sex life.

But as one doctor wrote in the New York Times, it’s not just about physical abuse, it’s about the teen’s overall safety as well.

Many years ago, I helped persuade a teenage patient to tell her parents that she was sexually active. She had been hospitalized with a sexually transmitted infection, and it seemed clear that they must be suspicious. They were concerned, too, and they didn’t seem crazy.

So against her better judgment, she told her parents her diagnosis. Her father’s reaction was to inform her that once she got out of the hospital, she was no longer welcome to return home.

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Do those who oppose teens obtaining abortions really believe it’s always better for a parent to know, regardless of how the parent reacts?  Or are they actually hoping for this sort of “punishment” for the teen for having sex in the first place?

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