March 15, 2005

Abortion: Why I'm Against Parental Notification

I promised Right Wing Sparkle that I'd debate her on parental notification laws, which she supports and I cannot.

It started at an unrelated thread at Beautiful Atrocities, wherein Jeff discussed the relative importance of abortion vs. the War on Terror right now to the GOP. Naturally, his readers (including me) immediately began arguing about abortion itself.

Right Wing Sparkle joined in, mentioning that she was once a pro-choice Democrat, a fact she's recently reflected on in her own blog.


Jeff, Your quote, "Saying girls who get abortions should be sterilized & abortion doctors killed is just fringe insanity" is right. It is so fringe insanity that I have been involved in pro life work for 20 yrs and never heard anyone say anything like that.

The fact is that for over 30 yrs abortion on demand throughout the 9 months of pregnancy has been the law. Democrats have fought us on parental consent for minors, informed consent, and partial birth abortion.

We may have won elections, but we haven't won anything else. So it is important to us to at least have someone on our side.

The vast majority of Americans want restrictions, yet we can't get a damn one.


I would love to see more restrictions in place, but I'm adamantly against parental notification, because it places girls in the position wherein they have to go to potentially abusive parents to discuss this matter. It forces girls to open themselves to abuse when they are most vulnerable. Parents who have an open dialogue with their daughters, and have instilled pro-life values in them, should not need this law to get their own children to come to them for help! It's an absurd idea that reflects parental insecurity.

[ . . . ]

This isn't a Federal issue, and it shouldn't be. Most Americans--whatever label they take--are in between the staunch pro-lifers and the militant pro-abortionists.


Attila girl, There are exceptions for that abuse situation in the parental notification bills.

I have worked as a crisis pregnancy counselor and I can tell you that most (and all the girls I dealt with) are so afraid to tell their parents, not because of abuse, but because of disappointment. I have a 16 yr old girl. She cannot have a tooth pulled without my permission. The thought of an underage girl going through a medical procedure that will affect her the rest of her life without parental notification is insane imo. This is the time the girl needs her parents the most. They are not emotionally mature enough to make this decision on their own.

I could tell you so many horror stories, but suffice it to say, underage girls need thier parents. It all cases I dealt with the parents were upset at first, but came around and were very supportive. Most parents love their kids. The exception should not be the rule.


RWS, I'll meet you over at your blog (or mine) tonight to discuss parental notification. It's a very emotional issue for me: I had a crazy parent who appeared normal to outsiders (and who could hold it in whenever she needed to). Yet she was a sadist when we were alone.

If the "exceptions" are dependent upon persuading people outside the family that a parent is off-kilter, I will never support parental notification. Period.


Attila Girl,

All the girl has to do is tell a judge that she is abused and will be if her parents are informed. Thats it. She doesn't have to bring her mom in or have witnesses or anything. And believe me, Planned Parenthood or any abortion clinic will be more than happy to get her there.

I can't tell you the horror I would experience if my daughter were to undergo a medical procedure without my consent. And many parents have had to deal with horror after finding out their child is dead. You don't hear too much about it, but there have been several cases of death during an abortion. I knew of one personally.

But, trust me when I say that no one would be doing the girl who has a pyscho mom a favor by allowing her to go through with an abortion. The emotional damage I have personally seen and heard has been almost too hard to bear.

Read my post about when I was pro-choice. Giving shelter, hope, and compassion is the much better choice. Which is why I have been associated with Birthright and The Nuturing Network. Unlike the abortion horror stories, I have yet to hear a birth horror story.

A child's life is a precious thing.

Well, at least we both care. That's a good thing. I'm not sure there's too much more to add, but I do have some thoughts that I might as well share before the entire right side of the blogosphere de-links me tomorrow.

For the record: I had an abortion the summer I turned 20. For the record: I regret it deeply. For the record: I was in a relationship with a domineering male, and it was his decision to terminate the pregnancy. But the idea that this could have happened two years before, while I was still 17, makes me pale. The outcome probably wouldn't have been any different in terms of my having an abortion, but my mother would have rubbed my face in it every day. I might not ever have made it to college at all.

1) Let's remember that emotional abuse is a lot harder to prove than physical abuse. It's especially difficult for a teenager who has lived with vitriolic language every day to see this as being quite the wrong that it is. And to describe psychological torture to the authorities is difficult as well. The reaction is very likely to be "hm, she said that? Why, young lady—she must have been at her wit's end. Whatever did you do to push her to that point?"

And if the teenager in question has misbehaved in any way—if she's acted out in the least—she'll probably hang her head and say, "well, I got a D in a class."

"There you are," the judge will say, kindly but sternly. "You must stop provoking her." Case dismissed.

2) It's also important to keep in mind that a lot of parents are in favor of abortions, especially for their young daughters! I think a lot of pro-life parents are so busy over-identifying with these parents (and wondering, horrified, if their own kids might ever sneak out and get an abortion themselves) that they lose track of this essential fact. Had I gotten pregnant two years earlier, the pressure on me to terminate would have doubled. I truly believe that the main pressures on young women to have this done come from a) boyfriends and husbands, and b) parents.

Your parental notification law will help you sleep better, but it probably won't reduce abortions.

3) Parental notification laws are a cop out for parents. If you want your daughter to trust you, it behooves you to be trustworthy. If you want her to anticipate that you will be supportive when she's having a hard time, the best way to guarantee that is to show her that during other hard times. If all she expects from you is judgment, then you need to examine your parenting style, rather than expecting the state to bail you out.

4) Girls and women do die during abortions. But let's be fair: they also die during childbirth. Two or three women die every day in this country due to pregnancy complications. Even here in the U.S. we haven't entirely removed the risk. There are risks either way, and if you haven't ever heard a "birth horror story," you might be spending too much side gathering data from only one side of the fence.

What do I think? I think our extremely permissive abortion laws are on their way out the window. This is one area in which we are way to the left of Western Europe, due to Roe v. Wade, a rather ridiculous decision that has kept the wound festering for decades.

This should be a state issue, and it should be solved on a case-by-case basis. But it will take a long time.

What helps? The fact that women keep having abortions. Ten years later, they get pregnant on purpose, and they go in for their ultrasounds. They look at pictures of their babies. "Isn't he/she cute?" they ask their doctors. And then there is the oh, shit! moment:

Oh, shit! If it's a baby this time, what was it last time?

Answer: a baby.

Give it time. And try to remember that the problem of racial equality took centuries to solve (if it has been: two schools of thought on that). Pro-lifers like to compare their cause with slavery, and there are certainly parallels. But even the abolitionists were willing to accept limited victories, and fight to prevent states from accepting slavery on a case-by-case basis.

I'd submit that the goal right now should be reducing the number of abortions, rather than legislating against them entirely.

(Now, if I've done everything correctly both sides will be hopping mad at me, and I'll wake up to buckets of hate mail.)

UPDATE: RWS discusses how she got into counseling women faced with this decision, how hard she fought against it, and how painful it is to do. A very wrenching read for potential adoptive parents (such as myself).

UPDATE 2: Rae of A Likely Story provides a cogent counterpoint to my thoughts from a parent's perspective. Recommended reading.

Posted by Attila at March 15, 2005 12:20 AM

In an ideal world, nobody would be mad.

You told your story, which is very powerful and is the best way to advocate for your beliefs. Personally, I was adopted but very well could very well have been aborted, yet I support abortion rights [without parental notification] and agree with you on most points; your post makes points that I had not even thought of yet.

Sorry that you had to deal with an abusive mom and go through an abortion without the support of your boyfriend at the time; it had to be hard.

Posted by: Steven at March 15, 2005 08:25 AM

What doesn't kill you . . . ;)

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 15, 2005 12:06 PM

Attila Girl,

I don't know if you saw my response over at Jeff's that I see this all the time, where it is actually the boyfriends making the decision, not the woman. But no one wants to talk about that.

When I said birth horror stories I meant that I have yet to hear a girl who decided to have the baby say they regretted it and wished they had aborted it. Even the ones who gave up their babies for adoption.

I am always shocked when I read about people who were adopted and support abortion. It really boggles my mind. But that is another post.

I also felt urged to post on this at my blog but from a different perspective. You might want to check it out.

I am sorry for what you went through. I hope you have peace with it.

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at March 15, 2005 12:20 PM

OhH , one more thing about parental notification. Perhaps I wasn't clear. The girl does not have to "prove" anything. She simply has to tell the judge what the case is and she can bypass the law.
Not that I agree with it, I don't. But if that makes you feel better. The girl will not be refused. It is simply a formality.
Pro-lifers agreed with the exception because we would rather have most parents informed even if that exception is only used as an excuse by some.

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at March 15, 2005 12:26 PM

Here's one for both of you to ponder: the boyfriend I was with at the time, the one who insisted that I get the abortion . . . was an adoptee.

Crazy world, huh?

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 15, 2005 12:35 PM

An adoptee? Fun. It may have been a personal issue with him feeling bad about being given up for adoption that led to his insistence that you have an abortion.

RWS, if you're interested, I will have that conversation with you about adoptees who support abortion rights over at your blog [or here, if Atilla would prefer].

The song Brick has been on my mind today. Good, sad song.

Posted by: Steven at March 15, 2005 01:43 PM

It's worth noting that Ben Stein became a pro-life activist after he and his wife adopted his son. The thought of this child perhaps being aborted under other circumstances so horrified him that he threw himself into pro-life work with all his might.

We have friends who became activists after they had their child. She had previously told me that she could never advise another woman as to which choice she should make. But havine a child of her own changed her mind.

So I've wondered whether adopting our own child will change our minds.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 15, 2005 02:28 PM

Oops. I mean, "my mind." (Husband is firmly pro-life.)

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 15, 2005 02:29 PM

Some of my dearest friends are the adopted children of my mom's former obstetrician. He was involved in pro-life activities to convince mothers to adopt, and wound up adopting four children himself. One of whom he'd actually been responsible for saving in the first place. (The aforementioned rescuee is in Iraq right now with the Marines.) Had they been aborted, well, I just can't imagine never knowing them. They've all been great friends for about as long as I've been alive.

So yeah. I've always been pro-life, but the adoption angle just brought that possiblity to mind today. Never really given it that much thought to that particular "What if...?" before. Gets one to thinking.

Oh, and for what it's worth, your link is safe with me, Attila. I'm with Sparkle on the issue, but I admire your honesty.

Posted by: Chadster at March 15, 2005 06:13 PM

Both of my Uncle's adopted kids have come from teenage mothers who had gone to Cahtolic Charites and/or their parents for help when they found out they were pregnant. But I would state that that option depends a lot on the resources avalible, especially in terms of support. But it gave my uncle and his wife what they always wanted but couldn't do on their own.

I have a random question, which I have no answer for, but maybe someone does. If there are complications during an abortion in which the parents are not notified cand the child reciieve the non-abortion medical treatment without parental consent? I only ask because when I worked at my local hospital in high school and we had som illegals come in with TB, they had us tested periodically for TB, but I had to get parental consent before the TB test could be administered. Throw that in with other experinces around school where nothing (even advil) could be administer without parental consent. So is there a line drawn by law on what non-abortion procedures can be performed without parental consent and what would the legal ramifications of perofrming such procedures with out parental conscent?

Posted by: the Pirate at March 15, 2005 09:40 PM

Hm. I'm sure that the way the laws are written, all associated medicines are included: the RH factor stuff (which I needed), the small tranquilizer, the local anesthesia (it's "twilight sleep" at Planned Parenthood, but I just had a normal local). I'd also bet that any emergency procedures that might be needed would also be covered.

I think part of what you're observing is a "cover your ass" culture at the hospital, and a CYA/"no tolerance for drugs, and anything is a drug" culture at the schools. In a life-and-death situation, I suspect things work differently. (There are laws, BTW, that protect "good Samaritans" from lawsuits, and it could even be that nurses could say they took some lifesaving measures on their own.)

We need some lawyers on this thread (and a doctor or nurse, if we can get 'em). Wonder what the Bear Flag Leaguers are doing? ;)

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 15, 2005 11:40 PM

I like that tee shirt for babies that reads: "Now that I'm safe, I'm pro-choice"!

Now that I'm a parent, I'm pro-notification.

Posted by: Kingslasher at March 16, 2005 04:45 AM

I can assure you Attila girl, being a parent changes the ENTIRE way you look at life.

Not that it makes a liberal a conservative, heaven knows we know that. But if you already leaning towards the conservative view, I have found having a child pushes you over into the right RIGHT!...;-)

Steven, come to my blog and read my post from yesterday. Then we talk..;-)

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at March 16, 2005 06:04 AM

When my old job required CPR & First Aid certification, the rule of thumb was you always had to ask some one if they wanted help before you could give it, if they refused you couldn't. The Good Samaritan part applied to when the person passed out and you would assume they would want help, even if moments before they had turned it down.

As far as the other stuff I'm still at a loss for the procedures, well except at King/Drew where they would probably just taze them.

Posted by: the Pirate at March 16, 2005 07:17 AM

LMA & RWS....This online discussion ya'll are having has truly raised the bar for online discourse. both of you are impressively well thought out, intelligent, passionate-without playing the emotionsla card, respectful of each other-without personal attacks (so often resoted to), so much so that I will now step back in awe and eagerly await comments to come. Please continue. I salute you both.

Posted by: P Mann at March 16, 2005 12:06 PM

Pirate: interesting. I've taken CPR and first aid several times, and we were never taught to ask. Of course, a few times that was in the context of VERT/CERT training (citizens responding to natural disasters), and the assumption was that a lot of people would be in shock, and no one would refuse treatment.

RWS: I know being a parent will change everything. Just be gentle when you throw this all back in my face.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 16, 2005 01:05 PM

OMG! I would never throw anything back in your face!!!! You will not believe how many times before I had kids, or when they were young that I would look at what another parent was doing and say "I would NEVER do that." and then I had to eat crow.

I learned a long time ago that with friends and family, unless they ask my opinion, I don't give it.

Kids just love to prove you wrong on any parenting plan you might have. Trust me on this one.

Posted by: Rightwingsparkle at March 17, 2005 06:47 AM

Weird, maybe it was because I did most of it through the scouts when I worked for them and they wanted to avoid child molesting stuff, then again they would then make you go get a second adult before approaching the kid. Yay for youth protecton!

Posted by: the Pirate at March 17, 2005 07:38 AM

Thanks for the link, Little Miss.

I appreciate the dialogue and that it got people thinking and talking.

Posted by: Rae at March 17, 2005 09:14 AM

Pirate: for what it's worth, I'm no longer alone with my doctor when I get a pelvic exam. During the time that I'm on my back with my feet in the stirrups, there's a female from his office present. After I sit up, she melts away.

I'm ambivalent: after all, I can only imagine what this does to my medical bills; he made need another staffer, just to make sure someone's available for this. OTOH, it doubtless makes things safer for a lot of women, if this becomes standard.

Of course, he isn't doing it out of the goodness of his heart: he's protecting himself legally.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 17, 2005 10:46 AM

Just curious - Why do you see a male gyno? Is he a really good fertility doc or something?

I haven't seen a male obgyn in many, many years. It's just not worth it to me, between that tension, the fact that even the best can never quite relate, and that in the waiting room at male docs, the excessive and highly allergenic perfume on the patients nearly does me in.

That last part is pathetic on too many levels.

Posted by: k at March 17, 2005 09:04 PM

I've gone the other way on male OB-GYNs. When I was young it had to be a female. Then a female was preferred. Now, I find that I don't care.

He's cordial and chats with me while he does a pap smear. He's fast, and the smears are 100% painless. He's nice. He delivers lots of babies, and doesn't seem to have any hangups about the female body. (Wouldn't it be great if we could assume that about a male OB-GYN?) He's the head of the obstetrics department at the local hospital, and comes across like he really knows his stuff, without it seeming egotistical. He's proactive, and if he has any concerns he'll do an ultrasound.

And the waiting room is large, so I never have to sit next to an over-perfumed person. I have been given to understand that some pregnant ladies develop a flirty relationship with their obstetrician, which sounds odd . . . but perhaps it's what you were observing.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 18, 2005 01:44 AM

Yeah, I wish we could make that assumption! But I started out believing doctors see bodies every day and don't ever have hangups - I was raised that way. My dad's an MD though he never really practiced. It was the "real world" that was a sickening wake-up call to me. I was not prepared for reality.

Being at the gyno is icky enough without those other complications. Needing a female witness in the room is enough for me to say, Lady docs only.

My new one's the best ever. Brilliant, kind, superb doc and surgeon, and very funny. The ladies always do the chatting and comfort talks, warm up that dilator and the stirrups (and/or put little socks on them), get the smear over first, and gently - "Torture part finished!" this one said cheerfully - and take seriously good care of me, fibroids, cysts, fibromyalgia, and all.

We have a large elderly and late middle- age population here. They seem to really pour on the scent. But the heavy perfume wearers are all ages. They almost never arrive smelling that way when I'm at a lady doc's waiting room. From years of waiting-room chats and observations, my impression is that they go to far greater lengths with the perfume, leg and pit shaving, lotioning, hair styling, makeup, dressing better, working hard to be giggly and appeasing, charming and Have a Personality, etc. when it's a male obgyn.

Like it's a date, ok? Or because their lives have taught them - right or wrong - that their natural bodies are disgusting to men in general, and must be seriously altered before being Presented for Your Approval.

I don't need to see that up close. It's pitiful. Upsetting. I also really hate putting on my terrorist-looking respirator in public, or leaving altogether because I'm in danger of needing the ER again. I've had to do that at male-only or mixed practices. I'd rather breathe than not. Breathing is good.

So is a sense of peacefulness and acceptance, of solidarity, in that waiting room. I really like that atmosphere. It's all smiley. Almost - gasp! - Fun. At the GYNO. !!!

And just in case anyone's wondering: this is not nearly as off-topic as it may seem at first glance.

Posted by: k at March 18, 2005 04:11 AM

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