Please visit the new home of Majikthise at bigthink.com/blogs/focal-point.

« The customer is always right | Main | Abortion: Issues and principles »

May 23, 2005

No compromise on parental notification

Justices Re-enter Abortion Debate With Case on Parental Consent
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court, re-entering the abortion debate amid burgeoning speculation about Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's retirement, agreed Monday to hear an appeal of a decision striking down a state parental notification law.<br><br>Justices will review a lower court ruling that struck down such a law in New Hampshire. The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the 2003 law was unconstitutional because it didn't provide an exception to protect the minor's health in the event of a medical emergency.

Some liberals think that parental consent laws constitute a reasonable "compromise" on abortion. Parental consent laws for minors are unacceptable, and argument that might establish their legitimacy undermines core pro-choice values.

Abortion is a medical procedure. As such, minors should have the same rights to obtain an abortion as any other medical service. Medical ethics guarantee all mentally competent patients privacy and autonomy, regardless of age. Note that parental consent laws only come into play when a woman seeking an abortion is competent to make her own medical decisions. (Guardianship for mentally incompetent patients is a totally separate issue.)

I'll post more about parental notification later, but I figured I should throw down the gauntlet preemptively.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c61e653ef00d834587ff869e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference No compromise on parental notification:

» Court Taking Up Abortion Notification from Unpartisan.com
The Supreme Court, re-entering the politically charged abortion debate, agreed Monday to hear a stat [Read More]

» The Party of Death, Part 175 from Another Rovian Conspiracy - St Wendeler
Lindsay, aka Majikthese, displays her predilection for death yet again... Oh, and for govt subsidized Viagra for prisoners! [Read More]

Comments

I'm confused - did this law have a judicial bypass for parental notification?

The funny thing about this is that it'll be an opportunity for the womb control lobby to harp on about how muddled and confusing the standard for judicial oversight in abortion is, when there's absolutely no more muddled, confusing, and generally inconsistent and unprincipled area of the law than parental "rights" (which seem to often enough be more akin to judicially-enforced parental control than anything else in our rights rubric).

"My father raped me, must I inform him that I'm having an abortion?"

"Medical ethics guarantee all mentally competent patients privacy and autonomy, regardless of age."

Is this true? Can a 13 year old decide to donate a kidney with out parental consent?

Can extreme youth be considered to preclude mental competence? Eleven year olds can become pregnant.

Things like this push me to favor parental notification laws with a very low-bar judicial review option. The problem is, you can write an apparent low-bar judicial review clause that really is not low-bar. Such a thing could be used to sell the law to people on the fence. Then, judicial review could be eliminated by a bureaucrat with an agenda. Too many pro-lifers put their cause ahead of their integrity. You would wind up with all judicial review of parental notification cases being put on 9 month waiting times for hearings.

Um. Don't minors need parental consent for just about any medical procedure? Wasn't there the boy in NY who was sent home from a scheduled doctor's appointment because his parents weren't there, and then died of the infection?

But parental notification causes more problems than it solves.

As a matter of law, you guys are absolutely right. Most minors are presumed incompetent to give informed consent and therefore physicians are legally required to secure parental permission for medical treatment. Here's a good overview of the medical legal conflict and its numerous http://www.parentsurf.com/p/articles/mi_m2248/is_150_38/ai_109027885>various grey areas.

However as a matter of medical ethics, doctors take a different view when there is a conflict between a mentally competent minor patient and his or her parents. ("Mentally competent" means being capable of giving informed consent, that is, understanding the costs and benefits of the medical procedure in question.) In that case, adolescent medicine specialists and pediatricians generally consider themselves to be bound to honor their patient's privacy and autonomy to an extent commensurate with the patient's maturity.

Interestingly, many many states specifically exempt pregnant, married, and emancipated minors by statute for all medical decisions. If a state emancipates a pregnant 11-year-old for consent to an appendectomy, surely she should be considered equally competent to consent to an abortion.

My point is that if we're talking about very young children, we don't need parental consent laws. Existing medical and legal safeguards exist. If we're talking about normal pregnant teenagers, parental notification laws are unjust because there shouldn't be any special parental authority over the body of a medically competent patient.

As the father of two daughters, I have two thoughts about this. When they were teenagers, I certainly would have preferred to have been notified if they had had an abortion. I also hope that as a society we would have cared enough about them to insist that some disinterested third party (i.e., other than the minor patient and the doctor) approve the procedure. How is this different from a tonsilectomy or a heart transplant? We can argue about who that third party should be, I guess.

I just don't believe that minors have an unfiltered right to medical services. I may trust my doctor more than I trust my government, but that doesn't mean that a single doctor should be the sole adult judge of what is medically appropriate for a child.

Of course our religious friends on the right will attempt to treat this particular camel's nose as a place to stand to move the world, but I don't feel as though this is a compromise (with or without snigger quotes) -- I believe third-party consent is a reasonable rule for all non-emergency medical procedures.

Graeme Williams
Graeme underscore Williams at yahoo dot com

I think it would take an astonishing level of naivete to think that this law exists for much reason other than to simply make minors less likely to have abortions by leveraging parental power of the purse. Notice that it isn't a parental consent requirement - which would be unconstitutional if not accompanied by a strong opportunity for judicial circumvention. It isn't a filter to a minor's access to abortions at all - every minor who could get an abortion without the law can get one with it (except maybe minors with non-dead but impossible to locate parents - didn't see how this detail would be addressed). What it is is a spiteful attempt to force minors who choose to have abortions to deal with parental retribution, which can run the gamut from withholding of food, shelter or educational funds right down to beating and murder.

...which creates the perverse incentive of making the minors in the least stable family situations the most heavily burdened when seeking an abortion.

My guess, which may be overly optimistic, is that O'Connor will vote to strike. I certainly hope so...

Eli, true and sad.

This is what Judge Owens was critisized for by the Attorney General Gonzales:

"During their time together on the Texas Supreme Court, Attorney General-nominee Alberto Gonzalez repeatedly criticized Pricilla Owen – another judge that Bush re-nominated – for ignoring the law. In one case, relating to requirements for minors to "judicially bypass" parental consent requirements for abortion, Gonzalez characterized Owen's narrow view of the statute as "directly contradicted" by the legislative history and "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

The bypass law only says that a minor can request a hearing before a judge so that the judge can make a ruling as to whether she can have the abortion or not based on the facts of her situation.(ie. rape by father, incest of any sort, and knowing dysfunctional families... a whole lot more from "honor" killing muslims to who knows what) It seems reasonable to me that they should have the opportunity.

Yeah... a law requiring parental notification for girls 14 years old and younger (with an exception in the case of rape & incest) is really draconian.

Oh, and here's the text of requirements for getting pierced from The Association of Professional Piercers (APP)

What is the APP POLICY ON PIERCING MINORS?

Regardless of any local legislation being more lenient, the following is an appropriate minimum standards policy on piercing minors:

For any piercing of a minor, a parent or legal guardian must be present to sign a consent form. Proof positive, state issued photo identification is required from the legal guardian, and a bona fide form of identification from the minor. In the event the parent has a different last name and/or address from the child, court documentation is needed to prove the relationship, i.e., divorce papers, or a remarriage certificate.

Under no circumstances is it acceptable or appropriate for a piercer to perform piercing on the nipples or genitals of an individual under 18 years of age.


Yeah.... makes sense to require that for a piercing, but not notification (not talking about parental consent, mind you... just notification) for abortion.

A majority of Americans agree that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. And that for minors, especially those 14 and under, there should be a parental notification process. You're the extremist on this issue...

By the way, if you don't want a notification process in your state, persuade your fellow citizens and pass a law. However, you and I both know that you'll be unlikely to obtain a majority on the matter... If the facts and the reasoning behind your position are valid, they'll stand up to the test of the voters.

Regards,
St Wendeler

If two teens are convinced that they are in love, then it is EXTREMELEY hard to hold off on sex. Accidents DO happen, like condoms breaking or birth control not working, EVERYBODY makes mistakes and everybody should be given a chance to correct those mistakes before it RUINS their lives. Teens are capable of making their own descisions without their parents, and if they are willing to live with the burden of having an abortion then it is worth it to them to have one. If parents were notified about abortions, it could destroy a family and the teens life. It's just not worth it, everyone should be able to have privacy and be in control of what they want to do with their lives.

If two teens are convinced that they are in love, then it is EXTREMELEY hard to hold off on sex. Accidents DO happen, like condoms breaking or birth control not working, EVERYBODY makes mistakes and everybody should be given a chance to correct those mistakes before it RUINS their lives. Teens are capable of making their own descisions without their parents, and if they are willing to live with the burden of having an abortion then it is worth it to them to have one. If parents were notified about abortions, it could destroy a family and the teens life. It's just not worth it, everyone should be able to have privacy and be in control of what they want to do with their lives.

I agree, Chelsea.

In California, we just voted on a state initiative that would have required this. There was a very well-done ad on TV, showing a bubble floating, with a woman talking, saying words to the effect that, "my teenager knows that she could always come to me if she were in trouble," and slowly the bubble floats into another house, and as the bubble pops, you suddenly hear a pregnant teen being screamed at by an angry parent. It was perfectly symbolic: hate to burst your bubble, but not everyone else has such a perfect relationship with their parents as your child does with you.

The comments to this entry are closed.