Commentary Family

Parental Consent and Notification Laws Are Dangerous. You Can’t Legislate Healthy Family Communication

Morgan Meneses-Sheets

A law forcing notification or consent doesn't help a young person who feels that they cannot turn to their parents out of fear for their safety or parental anger and disappointment. It simply makes it harder for them to access safe and legal care.

It’s 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 daughters grow up. I feel so lucky to be with them as they continue to grow and learn.

When they have their first crush, I hope they will come to me so we can giggle and share stories. I want to be there to show them that healthy relationships are grounded in respect. I want to ensure that any partner they choose will enrich their lives and bring them happiness. But if they feel uncomfortable talking to me or my wife, I hope they will reach out to someone like their aunt, since my little sister was always there by my side through my own heartbreaks and triumphs.

As a queer mom of biracial children, I know that my kids might face bullying because their family is different. If they are teased or are rejected by a clique in school, I want them to talk with me. We can discuss how they should not sacrifice too much to fit in and should always remain true to themselves. Difference can be difficult, but it is also something that we learn from and grow from, something that makes our family special. But if they think I won’t understand, perhaps they will look to a teacher or a minister, like the one who presided over one of our daughter’s blessing ceremony, for guidance.

If they have trouble figuring out the path they see for themselves, whether they want to go to college or art school, I can share my life experiences. I’d like to talk with them about privilege and how fortunate they are to have resources and parents who are able to support them financially to seek higher education. I’ll tell them how life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way you think it will, but it can be all the more exciting when it doesn’t. But maybe it won’t be me that they decide to talk to. It could be a guidance counselor or our family friend who runs her own business and has been another great role model as a strong and successful woman.

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And if either one of my daughters were to face an unintended pregnancy, I hope she would turn to me so we can talk together about all of her options. If she felt like she was ready to become a parent, we would be her advocate to make sure she could continue her education and support her along the way. If she was not ready or able to raise a child, we would talk about adoption and abortion and which decision felt best for her. And no matter what decision she made we would ensure she had access to quality health care services. We would hug her and let her know that we love her unconditionally and that we will be there for her.

But if she felt that she could not turn to us, she could talk to her doctor, the one who has always made sure she has the best care, or perhaps she would call my mom since they have a close relationship and she knows her grandma would support her no matter what.

Like any parent, I want to be involved in their lives, but if my daughters ever feel that they cannot talk to me, it is most important that they have access to information to help make their decisions and they know there are supportive people who will be there for them.

That’s why I am so concerned about the array of laws that force young people to notify a parent or adult family member before seeking an abortion. Politicians are taking their discomfort with teen sexuality and turning it into an agenda that imposes their personal and political beliefs and ideologies. The policies emerging from the misplaced values of politicians are threatening the health of young people.

Most young people already talk to their parents about important medical decisions, such as whether to seek an abortion, choose adoption, or become a parent. In fact, research shows that a majority of parents and teens are talking about things like sex and birth control. But not all young people live in this reality.

For a young person who feels that they cannot turn to their parents out of fear for their safety or parental anger and disappointment, the interference of a politician does not change anything. A law forcing notification or consent doesn’t help. It simply makes it harder to access safe and legal care.

The reality is that you can’t legislate healthy family communication. That is something that we work hard to create within our families. As caring adults, we ask our children about their day, help them do their homework, open the door to talking about sex, and try to do all we can to build strong relationships and show them how much we care.

Legislators cannot solve family issues or force a young person to talk to their parents. Policy decisions are not the right place to interfere with family dynamics or personal medical decisions. We need to put the health and safety of young people first.

That means that we have to stop laws that restrict young people’s access to care. We have to stop laws that create an unhealthy environment for conversation. We cannot stand by and watch while schools diminish the needs of young people, demonize teen parents, and withhold accurate information about sex and sexuality.

We cannot continue to shame pregnant and parenting teens or allow them to face discrimination. We need to get rid of policies that limit young people’s access to prenatal and maternity coveragehealth coverage for abortion, or create limitations on access to emergency contraception.

There is an agenda at work here—it is both a personal agenda, based on our own discomfort as a society with sex and sexuality, and it is a political agenda where lawmakers (and corporations) impose their personal beliefs on individuals and families.

I will be there for my daughters each step of the way, but that does not mean making every decision for them. Sometimes it means stepping back and trusting that we raised them to be capable of making their own decisions and having faith in them.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.