Saturday, June 04, 2005

PP, Judicial bypass and a response to the Princess too long for comments

Last night I indicated that I thought the American Princess's arguments against Planned Parenthood and in support of Indiana AG Steve Carter were flimsy at best. She replied this afternoon (while I was out, ironically, buying one more gift for a baby shower). Her comment this afternoon, while thoughtful (and a repeat of most of a couple of her comments on her own thread), missed the point of my initial post (her own post, the one I chastised last night, started with a reference to parental notification and then had nothing to do with parental notification).
"We can't overcome injustice to women by subjecting children to the same injustice. We don't elimitate poverty by eliminating unplanned pregnancies, nor do we serve young girls by allowing them to have abortions without notifying their parents. Children have the right to be protected. One doctor, who used to perform abortions and still believes that they should be legal told me that teens need their parents. He explained that pregnant teens seeking an abortion often wait too long and seek riskier and more dangerous second-trimester abortions, don't get proper follow-up care, may not take antibiotics, and may wait too long to seek medical attention if a complication occurs.

Judicial bypass--going before a judge to get an abortion without parental consent is just as much a disservice to teens. If the girl is in an abusive situation, she needs to have social services intervene, not give her an abortion and send her back home for continued abuse! . . ."
The issues regarding teens in abusive family situations who seek judicial bypass are not limited to PP. I agree that if they are in a bona fide abusive situation, social services needs to intervene (one would expect a judge in family court to get them involved as appropriate - unfortunately, except in cases of imminent danger, even when contacted it takes them forever to act due to case loads, etc.) I agree wholeheartedly that, in general, teens need their parents. I also think that young adults need them as well (frankly, we can all benefit from support from our families).

I, too, am concerned by some risks teens take with pregnancy and termination (and know there are some who have died senselessly because neither they nor their bfs told their parents they'd aborted which left families unanaware to watch for signs & symptoms of septic abortion which can occur either after an elective abortion OR spontaneous abortion aka miscarriage). I don't claim to know how a judge makes the determination of which cases are ones in which a child legitimately cannot go to her parents because they are abusive or because she is sure they will force her into a decision to go to term when she feels she should be the final arbiter of the decision and can present a cogent case to make that decision vs a case in which the teen is having the standard "OMG, my folks would kill me, I can't tell them" reaction. I would certainly hope that in the case of the latter, the judge would refer the girl back to her parents to open the lines of communication so she could make a decision with their support (even though they may prefer she make a different decision).

If I had a teenaged daughter, I would be mortified to know she was pregnant or terminated without even telling me she was pregnant. If/when I have children they'll hear the same thing my nephew (soon to be nephews) and my friends kids hear: expect me to absolutely flip my wig if I found out my teenager is pregnant or got someone pregnant, the first words out of my mouth will most likely be something like "how could you be so f-ing stupid?!?" (this from a woman who experienced pregancy after birth control failure when she was 19, so I hope whatever irrational hystrionics that pour from my mouth aren't quite that bad but I prefer to prepare for the worst). I will be angry, frustrated, afraid and upset. I will want to throttle my child. I will also be absolutely heartbroken that my child has to experience that same mass of emotions I, myself, went through. I will also calm down (eventually) and insist on discussing the situation and options with my child, and require clear thoughtful reasoning to support my child's decision.

When I made my decision to terminate at 19, I did not have to tell my parents. My parents had no idea I was pregnant (I was in college far from home) and I was not about to ask them for money since they were strapped (they work for small companies that do not provide health insurance, our coverage was limited to major medical so there was no impact on their insurance by my pregnancy). I could have easily just never said a word about it, but I chose otherwise. My friends & room-mate were mortified that I planned on telling my parents when I went home for break and begged me to reconsider because they knew that were they in the same position, their families would not support them (many of them would actively lie to their parents claiming to still be virgins, because their families disapproved of pre-marital sex - I've found there's a lot of irony about familial views of sex/abortion that seems inconsistent with actual behavior).

I spent a few days with the fears and nightmares that most minors probably have: they'll kick me out of the house, I'll be disowned (which was funny, since there was never any money - we lived from hand to mouth), I'll lose my family, they'll get violent, etc. I dropped slight hints on the phone before I drove home so I couldn't chicken out and not tell them as they were aware I had some significant health problems that concerned them and I felt I owed them a full explanation about that. Now understand, I had a volatile relationship with my parents but I still felt compelled to act like an adult and discuss the situation with them like an adult (especially since I knew I'd be a blubbering mass of emotional outbursts while I was home). I don't regret that decision to tell them, I think it was the mature and responsible thing to do under those circumstances. I would encourage most kids to do the same even though their parents may well flip a bit initially; parents usually do calm to a point of being rational and they can be very helpful even when they don't particularly like the decision you make. For many kids, it will be the first (and probably most extreme) in a long line of decisions about their lives in which they will face some dissent from their parents, but showing the capability to act and discuss like an adult can go a long way in engendering a better intra-family dynamic and proving yourself so your parents realize that you are growing up and can/should not only make certain decisions for yourself, but face the consequences of those decisions. My experiences, however, are quite different than
Lauren's when she was pregnant with her son Ethan; the experiences of girls who are in and out of foster-homes; and/or the experiences of girls from those strict religious families that would "kick a girl out" for just getting pregnant. These are women who may legitimately feel it's safer for them to live with the lie of their family not knowing what they've been through in order to still have a family. The latter cases, in addition to those in which there is abuse, are the ones for whom judicial bypass is a necessary option.

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