Commentary Family

Protecting Our Daughters from Government Intrusion: The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

Morgan Meneses-Sheets

Parents rightfully want to be involved in their teens’ lives, but if my daughter feels that she cannot talk to me at a big turning point in her life, it is most important that she have a trusted adult by her side. That is why I am so concerned about HR 2299, the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act of 2012.

It is hard to describe the parental instinct that makes you cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, and changes you along the way. I have celebrated every moment watching my daughter grow up. I can’t wait to see the wonderful woman she becomes.

When she has her first crush, I hope that she will come to me. We can giggle and share stories. I will be there to make sure she makes good choices and has healthy relationships that enrich her life and bring her happiness. But if she feels uncomfortable talking to her mom, I hope she will reach out to her aunt, since my little sister was always there by my side through my own heartbreaks and triumphs.

If she loses a friend or feels rejected by a clique in school, I want her to talk with me. We can discuss how she should not sacrifice too much to fit in and should always remain true to herself. If she thinks I won’t understand, perhaps she will look to a school counselor or the minister –- the one who has been by her side and presided over her blessing ceremony — for guidance.

If she has trouble figuring out whether she wants to go to college or art school or forge her own path, I can share my life experiences. I will tell her how it never turns out exactly the way you think it will and that life can be all the more exciting when it doesn’t. But maybe it won’t be me she decides to talk to. It could be her guidance counselor or our family friend who runs her own business and has been another great role model of a strong and successful woman.

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And if she finds herself pregnant and is not sure if she is ready or able to be a parent, I would pray that she turns to me so we can talk together about all of her options to make sure she makes the best decision for her and her unique circumstances. But if it can’t be me, she may want to talk to about her options with her doctor, the one who has always made sure she has the best care, or perhaps she would call my mom since they have always been close and she knows her grandma would support her no matter what.

Parents rightfully want to be involved in their teens’ lives, but if my daughter feels that she cannot talk to me at a big turning point in her life, it is most important that she have a trusted adult by her side. That is why I am so concerned about HR 2299, a bill that just passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and creates criminal penalties for caring and loving adults — including grandparents, aunts, and clergy — who accompany a teen who travels out of state to seek abortion care.

This short-sighted bill would also force doctors to impose a parental-notice requirement on young women from out of state – under the threat of fines and prison sentences. This makes a criminal out of the caring physician who has always had my child’s best interest at heart just because she keeps the trust and confidentiality of a doctor and patient relationship in order to provide the best care possible. This bill is not about protecting young women. It merely makes it harder for them to weigh all their options and make the best decision for them.

At first blush this bill may sound like a good idea. It plays on the gut instincts that parents have as our kids get older and we want to protect them from the big, bad world of grown up challenges. That is why a majority of young women do turn to their parents when they are considering different options in the face of an unplanned pregnancy or if they decide to seek abortion care. But for some teens involving their parents is not an option because their pregnancies are the result of incest, or because they fear parental anger and disappointment. Simply put this legislation is very dangerous for teens for a variety of reasons.

The government cannot mandate healthy family communication. That is something that we as parents and families work hard to create. We ask our children about their day, help them do their homework, and plan family vacations, all to build strong relationships and show them how much we care. Congress cannot solve family issues or force teens to talk to their parents and it is extremely harmful to the health and decision-making of young women when they attempt to do so.

I have big hopes for my daughter. I want to be there for her each step of the way, but what is most important is that she is safe, that she has timely access to the care that she needs and that when making important decisions she has someone by her side who will support her, even if that person may not be me. All I know is that Congress is the only “body” I don’t want involved in hers.

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