November 05, 2005

On Parental Notification

Oh, thank God! Another L.A. non-lefty sees the problems with parental notification. I'm not positive I agree with Cathy Siepp that all of Proposition 73's backers are operating in bad faith—but I do think the intuitive reaction parents have is "I wouldn't want my daughter to undergo an abortion without my input." And these parents really needn't worry: if your daughter has a sense that you will help her through a crisis, you're the first person she'll turn to if she makes a mistake or is the victim of abuse.

Of course, you're still likely to be concerned about the notion that "technically, she could sneak out and get an abortion." Good for you: I'm sure that is a creepy thought. But I don't think it's a realistic one.

Dysfunctional households, however, don't usually advertise their status with large lawn signs. Society has no way of knowing what goes on behind closed doors. Many people see "abuse" as only something physical, something that leaves scars behind. But there are emotionally abusive parents out there, and one thing that is likely to trigger this abusiveness is the news that their daughter is engaging in sexual activity. (Not so much sons: easy come, easy go. Play it as it lays. Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead. What, me worry? Sons, of course, do not get pregnant.)


. . . An abortion is not like other medical procedures.

If a girl wants, say, a nose job, and can't get it because her parents say no, the alternative to getting the nose job is simply not getting the nose job; she remains free of a medical procedure, with its attendant risks her parents don't want her to have. And I agree that should be the parents' decision.

But if a girl wants an abortion as soon as she finds out she's pregnant, and her parents say no, or she can't work up the nerve to tell them, at least not right away, the alternative is not that she remains free of a situation requiring a medical procedure -- but that she is forced instead to endure others (staying pregnant, or having a later term abortion) that, whatever you think of embryos' rights, are certainly medically riskier to the girl, especially a young one.

Perhaps if the men and boys who get underage girls into these medical situations in the first place were legally required to notify the girls' parents before they did, Prop. 73 would make a certain amount of sense. As it stands now, however, it's just pandering to those whose real agenda is making even early term abortions more difficult, not helping parents know everything that goes on in their daughters' lives.

I'm not even convinced that Prop. 73 would cause noticably less abortions. I suspect the real effects would be more late term abortions instead of early ones, and more newborns dumped in trashcans by girls who find it hard to admit even to themselves they're pregnant, let alone their parents.

That's exactly what it will mean in the real world: more late-term abortions, more infanticide. More abuse of teenagers.

I'm sorry, but if your own child is scared of you, why should society trust you?

I, for one, do not. Sorry.

Posted by Attila at November 5, 2005 10:00 PM | TrackBack

While their permission still will not be required, the abortionist would be required to at least notify the parent. While the very thought of abortion leaves a bad taste in my mouth it is with us, what is wrong with at least letting the parent know what you are doing to their 11-17 year old daughter? Please don't tell me that the daddy is responsible, those plots are why I don't go to the movies anymore.

Posted by: Jim at November 6, 2005 12:32 AM

But surely if there is a good relationship with the parents, those parents will be the girl's first stop as she figures out what she wants to do about this, and how. At the very most she might go to the clinic to get the pregnancy confirmed, and talk to them about a therapeutic abortion, but then go home and come clean with mom and dad before she schedules this procedure.

My point is that if she hasn't brought them into the loop, something's seriously wrong: she is frightened about how they might react. She must fear that there will be something extreme about their feelings, and that they will therefore be unable to help her think constructively about what to do.

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 6, 2005 02:34 AM

Sorry but does anyone remember being a teenager? Good relationship with your parents? Most teenagers are embarassed to go shopping with their parents, be seen with their parents, ...

The whole point of teenagers seems to be to drive parents crazy and spend as much time and energy as possible getting "out from under" parental controls.

They get better when their about 25 if I remember correctly.

Posted by: Zendo Deb at November 6, 2005 05:30 AM

I just got this news. Is it true? Unlucky the lady missed.


A journalist Emma Brockes working for the newspaper Guardian was arrested following her assasination attempt on well-known author and media-critic Noam Chomsky last Tuesday. The Guardian has issued a clarification that the journalist was hired with no previous criminal history and was sent on an assignment to interview Mr.Chomsky.

Mr.Chomsky appeared to be shaken by the ordeal and he said that he didn't expect an interviewer to be an assassin.

An unidentified source in The Guardian said that Emma Brockes has been previously associated with a right-wing BNP and has been an active member of the Israeli Likud Party. Ms.Brockes was also the guest speaker at the AIPAC convention in Los Angeles last January.

Posted by: auri at November 6, 2005 08:14 AM

Perhaps that breaking news was referring to the interview she did with him? And the fact that the interview did not make him look good at all?
(You might want to check the political humor sites to find the original...).

Posted by: Kathy K at November 6, 2005 11:25 AM

P.S. Miss Attila, I agree completely with you and with Ms. Siepp. But she missed the third most likely real affect (and the connection could well be missed by everyone if it does happen) and that is an increase in suicides among teenage girs.

Posted by: Kathy K at November 6, 2005 11:40 AM

Zendo Deb: I remember being a teenager very, very well. That's why I oppose Prop 73.

I'm afraid I see no connection whatsoever between the need for independence that drives teenagers to separate from their parents at the mall and the notion that they would not go to these same parents in a crisis.

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 6, 2005 12:31 PM

think I may be influenced by where I work...

but deliberately leaving a/both parent(s) out of the information loop is to deliver a girl to the influence of the impregnator..which many times is an adult.

At which point, I consider the abortion provider as an accessory after the fact to child molestation.

I have a great relationship with my 4 daughters (only one still a teen)...we've talked openly about sex all their lives and I'm PRO-CHOICE.

Not one of them has ever come to me PRIOR to being sexually active for condoms,et al. They felt (at the time) they were mature enough to make the decision on their own.

Older, they've sheepishly admitted they realized how young and STUPID they were.

Teen brains are physiologically different. Fact. It primarily affects those parts of the brain that deals with impulses and judgement. Fact.

Parents have the responsibility for their children, undercutting them at every turn needs to stop.

Posted by: Darleen at November 6, 2005 05:14 PM

LMA, I think you ar guilty of building an argument to reach a conclusion. this notin is suspect:

"But surely if there is a good relationship with the parents, those parents will be the girl's first stop as she figures out what she wants to do about this, and how."

I think that you are willing to take any incidence of a child's not going to her parents as evidence that it wasn't a good relationahip and was probably "abusive."

The fact is that even with a good relatiohnship, a child may not want to disappoint her parents. Doing exactly the right thing as a parent is no guarantee that a child will do everything according to the script.

The other analysis is also self-serving, cleverly chosen to miss the actual point. A better example, if one wants to argue intis manner, is to say that the child has syphilis. She may not want to reveal this to her parents in the best of relationships, but I'm not sure we want her getting "years of painful treatment" without parental consent. And THIS example IS one where the alternative is not to remain free of the condition.

It is really a very simple question: do we want as a usual condition to allow children to make their own medical decisions without parental notification, or not. We may also ask if there is reason to make exceptions due to irresponsible parents and the like.

Posted by: Averroes at November 6, 2005 05:21 PM


1) You may or may not want to answer this question, because it's a bit personal. So feel free to decline. But do you think that if one of your daughters had become pregnant, she would have failed to come to you?

I do not mean, "wouldn't have wanted to." I don't mean, "wouldn't have cried before, during and after the conversation." I don't mean, "wouldn't have become defensive and started baiting you at some point in the discussion." I don't mean, "wouldn't have gotten the diagnosis confirmed at a clinic first."

I mean, do you think one of them might have actually kept you out of the loop and secured an abortion without telling you?

2) If the baby's father is an adult and the girl does not want to tell her parents what happened, there is already something seriously wrong in the family structure. No girl who is well-cared for at home starts dating a 25-35-45 year-old male for no reason (unless you mean she's 17 and he's 18, which I don't think is your intent).

Allowing the girl to terminate the pregnancy doesn't "deliver her to the influence of the impregnator." The parents have already done that by allowing a grown man to seduce their daughter. They have somehow emotionally abandoned her already (and, in fact, there probably isn't a father in the household to begin with, so I think I mean, "the mother.")


Yes. I think the girl should be able to get treated for syph without parental consent. Same principle.

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 6, 2005 06:03 PM


1) Honestly, I do not know! I would have thought after years of open sexual conversation that contraceptives wouldn't have been that big a deal... but, hey, there you go. Ironically, when my oldest daughter was in high school she was VERY pro-life and we actually had some lively discussions on that one!

2) Sometimes it comes as a very big unpleasant surprise that a young minor daughter is schtuping - her teacher, her coach, the next-door-neighbor, her uncle, her dad's co-worker, some guy she meets during lunch at school that she met on the internet ... I could go on and on, I keep thinking there's nothing that won't surprise me then I get a case across my desk that has me picking my jaw off the floor. A family, or a single mom, doesn't have to be dysfunctional for a 14-17 y/o to decide she wants to be "wild" and engage in dangerous stuff. My youngest is a freshman at SFSU and what few things she has shared with me about others in her dorm, like her roomate, would curl your hair!

Yes, AG, I know of some real dysfunctional families and I want options for those daughters and sons... to become emancipated, etc. But IMHO I still believe the default position of the government should be to defer to the parents first.

Posted by: Darleen at November 6, 2005 07:42 PM

OK, LMA, I'm with you. no parental notification for anything. Same principle.

One caution: you seem to continually make the argument that dysfunctional behaviour in a child is absolute evidence for a dysfuntional family. 'Taint necessarily so.

I rather think that when children turn out welll, the parents get too much credit and when they turn out rotten, they get too much of the blame, muchof the time.

But what i REALLY think is that these are all situations which require a focus on the exact circumstances of the child which appear, without the prejudice of some overarching theory of why the child should be that way, or what parents in general are in such cases.

It requires trained professionals, one might say.

[Anecdotal story, just for whatever.]

When i was teaching in juvenile prisoons, i had the unhappy taks of trying to control an absolutely out of control teenage girls, who wold kill you just for fun. She had such a hold on her gang that whenever she came in, three or four of them would show up the next day. she was usually in for knife attacks, with the usual car thefts and drug busts. her record stretched back to when she was 8.

Turhns out, she was one of 8 children of an intact family. the rest of the children had no problems. The oldest were in or had graduated from college. I met her parents. They seemed like wonderful parents, if only for the fact that they truly cared for her, and could not be discouraged from continuing to have hope that she could turn things around.

No one had any explanation for this.

To take another example, all my brothers and sisters turned out ok.

Go figure.

Posted by: Averroes at November 7, 2005 12:50 AM

Is the child being scared of the parent real, imagined or influenced. Sure some parents probabyl shouldn't be trusted, but the same holds true for those who would advise teens over abortion (not to imply that anyone at planned parenthood would ever encourage children to hide anything from their parents, or sponsor a website about it). There are plenty of people out there who would be more than willing to give kids bad advice, but for some reason as a general rule society is a better parent than the parents I just don't buy it.

Posted by: the Pirate at November 7, 2005 08:08 AM

Well, I don't buy it either. But I'm suspicious of parents, since a lot of troubled ones can "pass" as concerned/reasonable when they need to.

The outrages that sparked this had to do with: 1) a girl confiding in her boyfriend's mother that she was pregnant, and being betrayed, and 2) a girl being sent to an abortion clinic by a school nurse in an emergency situation that should have required her mother's attention.

That second situation is what we need to be legislating against: public employees have no business counseling either for or against abortion--much less facilitating one.

Ordinarily, a well-raised girl is going to have other advisors such as an aunt, a clergy member, or a teacher who can help her to face up to the need to tell her parents what's going on.

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 7, 2005 11:17 AM

Ah. Now that I can post comments, here's my response to Darleen that the system blocked last night:
I actually suspect that although you and I are on either side of that line, we're each very close to it.

I know that adolescents can be awful. And I know that I do tend to take the teenager's side with family/friends who are parents. This should change in about a decade and a half, no? I assure you that my niece has tried to bait me enough to fix the problem, but I'm afraid the only cure is having a teenager of my very own.

Then you can fling this all right back in my face! ;)

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 7, 2005 11:43 AM

Won't do that, LMA, but you might consider some time in the future when your grandchild is killed by its teen-age mother without your knowledge.

I assume their won't be any real reason which would justify this, although it is more than possible that the dhild may think there is.

I think what we can all agree on is that life is not fair, bad things happen, and the need for a decision on abortion shold be avoided.

Posted by: Averroes at November 7, 2005 03:52 PM

Back to the example where only one girl of a set of siblings came out "bad", starting at age 8: One simple and common reason is that there was abuse, but not from the parents. Say, for example, a stranger committed a one-time rape of the eight-year-old, who stayed silent because the perp said he'd kill her parents and brothers and sisters if she told.

This is a perfectly ordinary explanation for that type of situation.

Posted by: k at November 7, 2005 08:44 PM

Well, k, I'm not sure about "common." it is certainly a possibility. But i think it is a mistake to reason backwards on this, that if someone turns out bad, there had to be abuse.

In a certain sense, something i realized as a therapist, EVERYONE'S cildhood is rotten. We were all small and powerless at one time, with our wishes met at the whim of large people who could do whatever they wanted to.

I also went through the great "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scam of the eighties, when that was the explanation for everything.

In this particular case, there was no evidence for any abuse. personally, i was pushing to have PET scans done, but the agency wouldn't spring for them.

I think there is another danger here. I see the old days sneaking back in, when everyone thought that a pregnant teenager was, a child of evil, and her child was therefore of bad seed. (I say this as one who is old enough to have actually observed a true shotgun wedding, where the father showed up with his daughter, the preacher, and a shotgun, accused a boy, my friend's brother, of "knockin' up" his daughter, the father asked the boy if he'd been "foolin' around," the boy said yes, and the wedding commenced.) In those days, abortion wasn't really an option down on the farm. But in that small town and the surrounding farms, both the girl and her child would be shunned by most people. the boy? Not so much.

I've seen "bad" or crazy girls sterilized without their consent, in the bad old days, just so they would not give birth to bad seed.

What i know is that when i was 13, and when my daughter was 13, both of us had trouble making a rational decision about when to change the sheets on the bed. Trusting a child like us, (can't speak for you or your children) to make a rational decision about either an abortion or telling her parents seems counterintuitive.

I sometimes think i here, in some, always sotto voce, the little voice saying that the child of such a pregnant girl is not worth having, not worth caring about. the result, I think, is the quick and ultimately lethal shunning of the unborn child.

Posted by: Averroes at November 7, 2005 10:06 PM

Oh, k, since this is an interesting case, it may also be possible that one of her siblings abused her.

But in fact, these parents were second generation Mexican Americans, and had worked their way out of a poorer neighborhood. They still had family ties to that neighborhood. the girl in question was "jumped" into a gang in that neighborhood at age 8. this was not uncommon, although when i started working with kids in Juvie, my middle class bias could not comprehend this. (One kid explained his joining a gang at 8 quite simply: I wanted to be able to go to a movie, and they wouldn't let me pass unless i joined the gang.)

when i knew this girl, in her teenage years, she was the gang leader. She was very charismatic, one of those cases that breaks your heart becasue you could see that if she just rechanneled her life, she could be successful without breaking the law.

She was also a bit of a pioneer. In this area, girl gangs were just establishing themselves independently from boy gangs. She was the one who broke her gang's dependence on the local boy gang.

As a generalization, gang kids often replace the lack of a faimly with the gang. but in the case of many Mexican American kids that i worked with, they did have strong families. They seemed to see their neighborhood, which often contained many cousins and grandparents, as an extension of the family, and the gang was an organization to protect it in ways the cops couldn't. The gang became not a replacement for the family, but an extension. in fact, manyof these gangs went back for 3 and 4 generations.

Posted by: Averroes at November 7, 2005 10:20 PM

I'm not really able to make the leap to this "bad seed" concept. I've made my feelings here many times: I advocate providing support for girls and young women so they can continue their educations, have their babies, and have them placed in loving adoptive homes--and continue to hear (if they want) periodic updates, and/or have visits every now and again.

I'm pro-adoption, not pro-abortion. But there are crazy parents out there whose craziness is not apparent to the outside world--only the family.

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 7, 2005 10:55 PM

A little late to the party, but here goes:

Some of this, appears, to depend on whether you view the ability to make medical decision for your children as a right or a previlege.

A privelege is easily revoked and must be earned to start with (such as driving). As such a 13 year old's misgivings may be sufficient to revoke the privelege.
Me? I view it as a parental right. I would no more take that right away from a parent on the word of their 13 year old than I would take away the right to own firearms on the word of their 13 year old.

I simple do not believe that a 13 year old has the capacity to objectively and honestly evaluate the situation given the obvious conflict of interest. A child might hide such a situation from their parents not only out of fear, but out of anger because the parents restrict phone usage and clothing choices, impose curviews etc. Those things are all perfectly reasonable to adults, but can be seen as "My parents hate me." by a 13 year old. It could also be out of personal shame. A failure to live up to expectations. Even many adults try to hide their mistakes, hoping that no one would ever find out. Why would a teenager be any different?

Are there parents who shouldn't be making those decisions? Of course. There are also people who shouldn't own guns, shouldn't speak their political views, or even be around walking the streets, but I wouldn't deem a 13 year old qualified to be the final arbitor of taking away any of those rights.

None of this is to say that you can never take that right away. We (as a society) take away rights all the time. I just think there should be more to the "due process" than the unsubstantiated word of a minor.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at November 8, 2005 04:16 PM

Averroes, that case really is interesting. The PET scan idea is intriguing and I'm sorry it wasn't performed.

I hope the "common" situation of abuse by a non-family member isn't common in the general population, even if it is among these very troubled people you're talking about. Joining a gang at age 8 is telling, too.

Aren't these more cases of nature vs. nurture, and don't nature and nurture have different avenues of contributing? DNA and nutrition during gestation are both "nature", while the family and the school are both "nurture" influences. And those gangs? To me they sound like local ad hoc government, more than extended family.

I think nature/nurture always influence one's personality and actions as an adult, but the balance is a bit different for everyone. So it's not reasonable to expect that the family is always the sole contributor to dysfunction in the family's children. And LMA is a reasonable person. However, I do think the nuclear family is at least among the top reasons.

Whether primary or far less, whether positive or negative, that nuclear family really matters. If the girl were confident enough in her relationship with her parents it's a non-issue. So we're already only talking about those girls who, for whatever reason, don't want their parents to know.

As galling as it may sound, I firmly believe we must respect that girl's right to make that notification decision. It's HER BODY. Women still die in childbirth, which is why we're talking about a choice that can truly be life or death for the mother. Having parental notification of that choice done by force of authority, against that girl's wishes, is not going to help her stay as calm and rational as possible at such an awful crossroad in her life.

Remember that her pregnancy tells us this: She's already either made a decision to have sex - an adult-level decision there, whatever we think of the outcome - or, she's had sex forced upon her by violence or coercion. If she truly agreed to sex, notification against her wishes won't teach her about decision making or responsibility.

If she did not agree, she's had the control of her body stolen from her already. To force her into parental notification will further prove to her that jurisdiction over her body isn't really hers after all. But this time, it won't be a rapist proving that to her. Instead, it's the authorities - the "good guys" who were supposed to keep her safe from harm. They didn't. Now they'll steal her privacy and harm her some more.

Posted by: k at November 8, 2005 09:29 PM

Menace, your thoughts are very compelling. But how does it change the equation if the girl is 17 years old? Does it?

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 8, 2005 11:16 PM

To me, it's a question of line drawing. If an 18 year old, why not a 17 year and 364 day old. If a 17 year and 634 day old, why not a 17 year and 393 day old. We can back this all the way down to birth. Doing this is one of the formal logical fallacies. The lack of a natural place to say "Here, but no further" doesn't mean that there is no distinction between the two groups. Certainly there will be people on both sides of the divide that don't belong. I know some 16 year olds who are more mature intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually than some 46 year olds.

To me, it seems your question is more appropriately about the age of majority. Is it too high? Should it be lowered? Maybe, maybe not. I could make arguements for both sides. The age of majority is not a natural line, but a statutory one. As such, if we as a society want to lower (or raise) it we absolutely can. If you think the line should be 17 and can convince enough people to agree, I am perfectly willing to accept the results. I certainly don't have any special insight that makes my opinion on the matter the one that should be enforced.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at November 9, 2005 07:25 AM

Jeez, I'm rather dislexic these days. And I even work with numbers, how scary is that?

Posted by: Masked Menace© at November 9, 2005 10:13 AM

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