Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New Hampshire Parental Notification Law

In what has been billed a good test case for what direction the Supreme Court might lean on abortion now that Chief Justice John Roberts has been seated, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood was heard before the high court today. The law, passed in 2003, requires a minor to inform her parents she is having an abortion, with the inclusion of a"bypass procedure" for emergencies. It would seem that the backers of the law originally feared a "medical exception" would be broadened to such a point as to render the law useless. Of course Planned Parenthood quickly moved in and through two court decisions the law has been found to be unconstitutional.

The really interesting aspect of this whole debate is how one can logically argue that a minor be permitted to have an abortion without at least notifying the parents, if not obtaining their consent, especially considering the following:

You must be at least 16 years old to drive a car
You must be at least 17 years old to see an R rated movie
You must be at least 18 years old to vote, smoke cigarettes, and join the military
You must be at least 21 years old to drink alcohol
Also consider the number of parental consents required for school activities and other types of medical procedures.

So how is it, given the above list of restrictions the law places on a minor, can people argue that a 14 year old girl can walk into an abortion clinic and undergo a procedure of this type without the parents knowing? The problem with pro choice faction is that they believe the right to have an abortion is sacrosanct and any law which might possible encroach upon a woman or in this case a young girl having an abortion must be struck down. Everything about our laws say minors lack the maturity and intellectual development to handle certain kinds of decisions or activities. We go to great lengths to protect minors from their worst enemy: their own inexperience. Yet in reference to a procedure which will terminate another life and based on the testimony of some women who have had abortions, can be emotionally damaging, we think these same minors can handle it? It is tragic that some people place a political objective above the welfare of the very people they claim to protect.

One final note on this issue is that this exact question of parental notification/consent proved very pivotal in deciding the 2002 Governor's race in Massachusetts. I was living in Massachusetts at the time and there was a hotly contested race between Mitt Romney, a Republican, and Democratic State Treasurer Shannon O' Brien. During the final debate the question of parental consent and notification was posed by moderator, Tim Russert(Meet the Press). O' Brien staked her position along the same lines as the opponents of the present case to the point that a shocked Russert directly asked her is she was advocating that 16 year old girls should be able to get an abortion without their parent's knowledge. She confidently answered she was in favor of that. When Russert asked for further rebuttal from Romney, he wisely declined any further comment realizing the huge political error she had made in backing such an unreasonable position. While there were many other issues which played a role, O'Brien's position did not play well with the heavily Catholic region. Masschusetts may be very liberal, but apparently not on this particular issue. O'Brien lost a few days later.

If anything else, imagine a 14 year old walking into a clinic, stating that she is pregnant, and asking for an abortion, and it being granted just in time for her to be home for dinner with Mom and Dad who are none the wiser. That cannot be right, yet some people believe it is.

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