Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Parental Notification UPDATE

There is a proposition on the California ballot next week asking voters to require parental notification in the event a teenager seeks an abortion.

This editorial entitled, Parents are not the enemy, so let's stop treating them as if they are appeared in my local paper in support of the measure. The arguments made by the writer are the typical arguments of which I've heard in the campaign supporting this initiative. So I thought I would take each point and give my point of view.

#1 I promised I'd always be there for my child.

I can tell right away that the author of the editorial does not have teenagers. Of course parents want to be there for their children. My daughters are nearly 28 and I still want to rescue them from every possible obstacle. Of course, it would be silly to do so.

So the question becomes, when does a parent stop "being there for their child" and "how much" do you stop?

Here's what my experience tells me. Ninety percent of who and what we are, including our values, is imprinted in our personalities by the time we are twelve years old.

That's right. Pre-teen.

In fact. The most important years in developing a child's personality are the first two. But how much emphasis does our society put on early childhood support? There is an unfortunate collision between the needs of infants, and the immaturity of parents.

In later years, many, many parents just miss the boat, putting in too little time and too little effort in those formative years. If a parent hasn't instilled what they want by then, it's really too late when their children are teens. Changes that may come later are painfully hard to incur and very slow to occur. Trying to "teach" your child about the rights/wrongs of life in the teen years is to close the barndoor after the cow is out.

It's a fact of American parental culture that most people absolutely do not understand the above paragraphs regarding personality formation. Using a heavy hand of control over a teen is a common tactic, still trying to control their "children", because they likely don't like the results of what has been sown in earlier years. In fact, this usually results in a war and a whole bunch of unintended consequences for everybody.

So let me put it this way. In an ironic way, those who would support parental notification on the grounds that they need to "be there" for their children are probably the very parents who children don't want notified. Parents who support the rights of a teen young woman to decide for herself, will probably have the opportunity to "be there" for their child.

#2 Other laws restrict the rights of underage teens.

Sure. Teens can't buy booze or cigarettes. They also have driving restrictions, although at sixteen they can drive. But wait! Don't we put them on trial as adults for crimes? In California, a teenager has confidentiality rights in their relationship with professionals. Teenage years are a terrible part of the law rife with inconsistencies. This argument therefore sucks.

#3 It takes a community to raise a child.

This argument is most interesting of all. I totally agree. So why do parental notification proponents want all the control for the decision to be in their hands? No one should be so naive as to think that a fourteen years old girl seeking an abortion would simply walk into a clinic, have the procedure, and then hasta la vista. It simply doesn't work that way. Services that are a part of the program of any abortion services I've ever heard of include birth control information, counseling, and referral to in-depth counseling if needed. Any clinician with a troubled thirteen year old girl will certainly offer appropriate services. Sounds suspiciously like a community approach to me.

#4 Abusive parents exist and beat their kids for all kinds of reasons other than a teen being pregnant. Not having parental notification won't stop abuse.

This quote I particularly liked:
Frankly, many of these arguments border on enabling, as in "Let's not say anything that might anger abusive parents." This is hardly a healthy message to children.
Duh. This is the stupidest argument. Kids get beat for not cleaning their room because parents can be idiots, so let's mandate parental notification since they're gonna get beat anyway. Idiocy.

Also, this is pretty easy to say if you're from a white-bread, kinder-than-kind middle-upper class family with a nice warm bed, three squares and parents with Master's Degrees. But this guy, and he is a guy, doesn't live in any kind of a real world that I know of. It's a typical GOP type of stereotyping everyone as being like them. And the real implication in the statement: "let's use teens who are pregnant to teach parents a lesson rather than enabling them" is the height of stupidity.

A variation of this argument has been that the numbers of kids from abusive families and in this category are actually few. I don't know the exact numbers. But I can tell you there are plenty who have parents that are less than sympathetic when it comes to a teen facing such a serious problem. I could say the same about people who blow red stop lights. Not that many, so let's get rid of the law.

#5 There are exceptions in the law for teens of abusive parents.

Oh, sure. Let's see. A fourteen year old girl that can't (for whatever reason) tell her parents she's pregnant walks into the Superior Court, petitions a judge to hear her case for wanting an abortion and not telling her parents. Ah huh. And I'm sure the professionals, i.e. counselors, doctors, nurses and other health professionals will line of to help a teen through that legal process. If parental notification is the law, those same professionals open themselves to legal liabilities. Hell, I don't know many adults who would undertake such a task as petitioning the court.

#6 He was a foolish teen know-it-all, and everyone is like him.

See item #4. This fellow lives in a highly affluent San Francisco suburb, probably making $80,000/year. Methinks he hasn't seen much of a spectrum of life outside his tidy little world. He likely defied his parents and stayed out thirty minutes past curfew because he knew better. And as a consequence, he was grounded from his Nintendo for a week. Oh gosh!

Yes, teens are foolish. And teens make mistakes. But what teens need is guidance, not control. Parents who want notification don't want to consult with their teens. They want to dictate, possibly due to their own beliefs.

The editorial ends with this:
Nonetheless, opponents of Proposition 73 are using all kinds of scare tactics to oppose this measure. The most common and most troubling is the one that demonizes parents.
Like it or not, in the real world, parents are often demons. Teenagers are in a netherworld that's neither fish nor fowl. But it is true that teens can and do participate in sex, and they do get pregnant. The decisions and consequences of that decision are theirs, and no one else.

In the best of all worlds, shit wouldn't ever happen. But it does. And one of the lessons of teenagers as they try out those values they learned in ages zero to twelve is how to cope with the fact that shit does happen. When they're left to deal with it, they do, and are usually the better for it.


Check this out:
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the measure "would require each court to issue a public report once a year on how many abortion requests each judge has granted and denied."

According to the Chronicle, "Some foes of Prop. 73 say the provision seems designed for political campaigns. They envision a political attack in a conservative area that would go something like this: 'Judge X allowed young girls to secretly kill their unborn babies in nine cases out of 10 last year.' In a liberal area, such an attack could say this: 'Judge X forced young women to give birth nine times out of 10.'"


At 4:35 AM, Blogger Lynne said...

Wow, great post. Sounds like it needs to be a Letter to the Editor.

At 7:53 AM, Blogger Greyhair said...

Thanks. I would. But I live in a heavily liberal/democratic area, so I'd rather use my time elsewhere. No need to preach to the choir.

Besides, in my paper you're allowed 1 letter every 2 months, so I save em' up for local issues/local candidates that I work for.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Lynne said...


You live in a heavily liberal/democratic area. Sounds better than chocolate.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Greyhair said...

100th most liberal county in the nation. But before this, I lived in the equivalent of Alabama in Central CA's bible belt.

I feel your pain.


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