Abortion and Aspirin
CNN has an article about the two abortion cases on the Supreme Court docket: one having to do with parental notification, to be argued day after tomorrow; and the other involving restrictions on anti-abortion protests outside clinics where abortions are performed.
The most-watched case, to be argued Wednesday, deals with a 2003 New Hampshire law that would make it illegal for an abortion to be performed on a minor unless a parent or legal guardian had been notified in writing 48 hours in advance. The only exception would be if the procedure was necessary to prevent the minor’s death.
A federal appeals court found that exception is not broad enough, ruled it unconstitutional and blocked it from taking effect.
“This law does seem to be crafted to demand some kind of Supreme Court review,” Lazarus said. “It really goes to this question of how much you have to protect the life versus the health of the mother. That comes from the initial ruling in Roe v. Wade. It’s not an issue that has been settled at the court.”
Exactly. This is what I’ve always said. How do you define a woman’s life? Is a woman more valuable than a fetus only if she’s about to die? Or does her mental, emotional, and psychological health and stability rank higher than the continued development of a clump of cells? What about chronic medical conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, shortness of breath, or hypertension? Does the right of a fetus to be born trump the right of the woman carrying that fetus to end a pregnancy that could trigger a serious medical condition or worsen an already existing one? And what if a girl is raped? Does the torment of having to play host to a rapist’s seed for nine months qualify as a threat to a girl’s life?
These issues are all the more important to me because I am the mother of a teenage daughter. I am chronologically beyond getting pregnant, but she is just beginning that part of her life.
My daughter and I are close. We have talked many times about sexuality and pregnancy. I feel reasonably confident that she would tell me if she became pregnant without being forced to. But what if, for whatever reason, she did not want to tell me, or didn’t feel she could, or should? I care more that she should have access to the proper medical care than that she should be turned away for not having notified me.
I will say this as bluntly as I know how: My daughter’s physical and emotional well-being is paramount to me. I make no distinction between her life and her health in the context of prioritizing my daughter over an embryo or a fetus.
There is an enormous lack of understanding out there about the extent to which parental notification and consent laws put the lives and health of teenage girls at risk. Even the people who really should know better often don’t.
New Hampshire argues separate provisions — which it calls “safety valves” — provide for a health exception by allowing doctors to seek an emergency judicial waiver of the notification requirement for non-life-threatening health issues.
But what if the doctor isn’t concerned about non-life-threatening health issues? What if the doctor can’t find a judge who is willing to hear the case? Most judges hate these types of cases, and many simply refuse to hear them.
Legal scholars say the case will turn on whether New Hampshire’s law represents an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. The high court has followed that standard when deciding whether such laws are too restrictive. Supporters of the state say the law in question falls far below that.
“Should parents be notified if a minor’s going to have an abortion? Of course our answer is that they should be notified,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
“You’re not talking about parental consent, you’re just talking about notification,” he added. “In high school, a kid can’t even have an aspirin without getting a parental slip, so the idea that they could have an abortion procedure without telling the parents that it’s about to happen just seems to be outrageous.”
When it comes to a teenage girl seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy, there is no meaningful difference between parental notification and parental consent. If a girl is afraid to tell her parents about a pregnancy, consent is a nonissue. The girl is not worried about her parents telling her she can’t have an abortion; she’s worried about her parents finding out that she’s pregnant and needs an abortion.
And that argument about a kid needing parental permission for an aspirin is an endlessly repeated canard that has no validity as an argument for parental notification laws at all. Most parents are not going to disown their child or scream at her or call her a whore or beat her up for needing an aspirin. And most teenage girls are not going to be afraid — or terrified — to tell mom or dad they need an aspirin. You don’t need judicial waivers for school regulations that require teachers and office staff to get parental permission before giving out aspirin. That should tell you something. Even the most ass-backward idiot should know that telling a parent their kid is pregnant and telling a parent their kid asked for an aspirin are not similar in even the smallest way.
I think we should start caring more about our kids’ lives and less about our desire to pull rank on our children.