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Monday, September 08, 2008

The Myth of Parental Consent

If you are a media junkie like me, you know that presidential election coverage is seemingly inescapable. Even guilty pleasures like Perez Hilton have articles on Sarah Palin and Julia Allison’s coverage of Fashion Week took on an election theme. However, amid the presidential election brouhaha, local measures on November’s ballot are in danger of being overlooked.

As a San Francisco resident, my ballot in November will also include 11 statewide propositions and a whopping 22 citywide measures. I must admit that with 57 days left until the election I am sadly unaware of most of those propositions. However, I am aware that a parental notification initiative (Proposition 4) is on November’s ballot for the third time in four years. In 2005 and 2006 California voters voted down parental notification propositions, but anti-choice advocates are at it again.

Proposition 4 is the latest attempt of anti-choice advocates to restrict abortion access in California. Currently, California is one of the nation’s most pro-choice states with no restrictions on abortion and a majority of citizens (71%) agreeing that the government should not interfere with a woman’s access to abortion. The anti-choice activists that created Proposition 4 hope that by pitting the “rights” of parents against the “rights” of a teenage woman that they will be able to change California’s voters' minds.

The issue of parents’ rights was a hotly debated issue when I spent Sunday afternoon phone banking for the No on Prop 4 Campaign. During the phone bank I called registered voters (all of whom are over 18 and therefore unaffected by the law) and told them why Proposition 4 is bad policy. The script phone bankers (including myself) read to voters acknowledged parents’ rightful desire to what to know what is going on with their teenagers' health but encouraged voters to think outside of their family (where presumably communication is great) and vote on behalf of vulnerable teenagers who could not go to their parents in case of an unplanned pregnancy for fear of violence.

Phone call after phone call, I got responses from voters who are also parents stating that parents are required by law to consent to their child’s healthcare in other instances and asking abortion should be different. My favorite anecdote came from a couple who were clearly anti-choice in which they informed me that parents are required to consent to a tattoo so obviously they should be required in cases of an abortion. I bit my tongue, but I wish I had responded – “Yes but the decision to get a tattoo is incomparable to an abortion. An unwanted pregnancy results in a child. The results of getting a tattoo is having a tattoo. No one is responsible for feeding the tattoo or for its well-being for a lifetime to come.”

Concerned about the claim that parents have a right to consent for their child’s healthcare, I did some research. The results were surprising. Parents are not necessarily required to consent to healthcare of a child. In fact, if a pregnant teen wants to get PRENATAL care in California, healthcare providers are obliged to provide them with confidential healthcare WITHOUT seeking the consent of parents. The “truth” of parental consent for healthcare is a fallacy, and passing Proposition 4 would make abortion the exception to a rule not vice-versa.


  • I have a 13 year old daughter and I hope if she ever needed an abortion she would choose to tell me voluntarily because of an open relationship fostered and nurtured through her young adult life and not because the government passed a law that says she should. I have to sign a piece of paper for my kid to go on a field trip and I don't have to sign a piece of paper where my daughter could possibly die or have permanent reproductive problems for the rest of her life. It is not fair for you to criticize parental consent when in the greater scheme of things having an abortion is a life threatening procedure. It isn't always about being a teenage mother that concerns parents, my goodness people have been having babies since Adam and Eve, its about the health of my child I am more concerned about. What I need is for parents to foster better relationships with their daughters and sons. Help your children to be sexually literate. Parents need to educate their children and teach them to make better choices and recognize for every action there is a consequence. I resent the author's assumption that parents are anti-choice and then makes a mockery of those parents by saying " you don't have to feed a tattoo." This parent is concerned about an abortion because it puts my child's health and reproductive health at RISK. And before you get on your bandwagon...I am pro choice.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 16, 04:25:00 PM PDT  

  • Wow, anonymous, I couldn't make a better case against Prop 4 than you did in your opening sentence: "I hope if she ever needed an abortion she would choose to tell me voluntarily because of an open relationship fostered and nurtured through her young adult life and not because the government passed a law that says she should." As you point out, you just can't legislate open parent-child communication--and in the case of parental notification for abortion, trying to do so can prove deadly. For folks like you, whose offspring can talk to them about such a loaded issue, parental notification isn't necessary, right? Your daughter would come to you first anyway. But what if you're wrong? As a high school sex educator, I talked to plenty of parents just like you, who were convinced that their child could--and did--talk to them about everything. And their kids shared a different reality with me, asking for info on safer sex, contraception and abortion that they would never go to their parents for. Given a choice, I would like to believe that those kids would go to their parents if pregnant--that's what I encouraged them to do, and that's what I would want my son to do, too. But given a choice between NOT telling their parents and seeking a safe, legal abortion on their own, or facing parental notification and seeking an unsafe, illegal abortion? If it is their health you are concerned about, then that seems like a no-brainer--especially since legal abortions are as safe as childbirth and don't put their 'reproductive health at risk' as you inaccurately state. The true risk to the health of your daughter--and any other young woman suffering under parental notification legislation--is the potential of death and reproductive harm from seeking an illegal abortion because you thought you knew her better than you do. And what about kids who are beaten, neglected, raped and abused by their parents--do we force them to have illegal abortions or unchosen pregnancies because their parents aren't as 'great' a communicator as you are? For shame. The fact is, parental notification puts the greatest burden on those young people who need our support the most.

    By Blogger whiddy, at Tue Sep 16, 06:56:00 PM PDT  

  • Whiddy, I applaud that you are a high school sex educator. Its obvious when you address one side of the issue, they flip the coin and now address, "kids who are beaten, neglected, raped and abused by their parents--do we force them to have illegal abortions or unchosen pregnancies because their parents aren't as 'great' a communicator as you." Do you really think Prop 4 is going to help these kids? Obviously the ordeals these children you reference are going through will not benefit from Prop 4 because they can have numerous abortions without consent and still come back home to these monsters they have for parents. Do you have a solution for that? Oh wait, maybe we have Prop 5. I'm tired of teenage pregnancy being used as a vehicle for folks to try and pass laws that continue to create barriers between parents and their children. You say you are a high school educator and that you speak to parents "like me" who think their children tell them everything. I am not naive I know my child doesn't tell me everything, I was a child once. Having an abortion is a life threatening situation (you can give me all the statistics in the world but anytime their is a surgical procedure ) there is always risk and that is my child not yours, and not the governments. If she chooses to have one, I want to be there by her side to offer my support, hold her hand, comfort her and remind her that she is loved. When Prop 4 can provide that for my daughter sure I am all for it. Sometimes I feel like with all the technology we have in our society we continue to regress in terms of human compassion and understanding. You readily spew out how there is a disconnect between parents and their children ...then as a society we need to find that bridge in stead of continually creating laws that foster secrecy, disconnect and withdraw teenagers from their parents. Wether my, yours or their child chooses to have an abortion or continue the pregnancy she is still my child and after you have passed your law I will still have to deal with the emotional trauma she may go through after termination or with the child if she chooses to keep the pregnancy. So in the end after all Props, abortion or no abortion she is still my child and I don't give you consent to allow my child to make a a major life changing decision and then move on to your next platform because your statistic don't substitute for loving parents. Trust me, we really aren't the enemies.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 16, 09:49:00 PM PDT  

  • Anonymous, you need to do your research. Not just on the fact of abortion, but on Prop 4 itself. I'm against it--as all parents genuinely concerned about their childrens' health should be. You seem to know how you feel about abortion (based more on your 'feelings' than on proven data about its safety in relation to childbirth), and masking yourself as pro-choice while you criticize the choice of others. But you clearly haven't read Prop 4 or you would understand my comments and realize that you look a little bit ignorant--you're right Prop 4 won't legislate parent-child communication and it won't help kids abused by parents lead healthier lives and we do "need to find that bridge in stead of continually creating laws that foster secrecy, disconnect and withdraw teenagers from their parents." That's why I'm not voting for it. When you're ready to read Prop 4 and make an argument based on science and fact, you might get taken a little more seriously. Hope you do your research and present the truth when you talk to your daughter. Her health might depend on it.

    By Blogger whiddy, at Tue Sep 16, 10:08:00 PM PDT  

  • Thank you Whiddy. I will take my "ignorant" "not taken seriously self" and read Prop 4. You are correct I have not read it. As for your statement about , based more on your 'feelings' than on proven data about its safety in relation to childbirth.' I know the risks for childbirth versus abortion. As for my "feelings", you've stated you have a son so you know what it "feels" like to bring a life into this world that is now your sole responsibility. You would sacrifice your life for him at any given moment and I would imagine this is one thing we can agree on when it comes to our children. My reactions are based on these "feelings" you seem to have belittled. I choose not to make an argument based on science and fact because in the end they are statistics that neatly boxes everyone up and categorizes everyone. Science and facts presumes to predict if we do "A" the direct result will be "B". I prefer to think and "feel" with my heart versus fact and science with my head. Good luck with your fact and science!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Sep 17, 09:47:00 AM PDT  

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