Thursday, March 10, 2005

A very difficult subject

Anita over at Fighting Inertia recently posted about an article she had been asked to write about whether parental consent should be required in the case of a minor requiring an abortion.

Many people commented on that post and I was going to myself, but as I started to write I realised that my comment was going to become an essay and thus it became this post instead.

Before I continue I will say to anyone reading this, that you are entitled to your opinions on the subject as I am an entitled to mine. You are entitled to express your opinions in the form of a comment on this post and that is fine with me. Any comments made here, whether they are in agreement with me or not will be left alone as long as they are not abusive or offensive and they do not use foul language. Comments that fall into those categories will be removed as soon as I see them.

So to the point of this post:

Anita’s assertion was that parental consent should not be required in these cases and I happen to agree with her. But it was the comment left by one of her readers that prompted me to write this. The comment read:

A thirteen year old girl does not have the intellectual capacity to make such a decision so she needs some guidance. The question is who is in a better position to provide that guidance? Should it be someone objective? Yes, that would be ideal. But find me someone who is objective on the matter. Everyone has an agenda […]

So, since everyone is going to be giving subjective advice -- consciously or unconsciously reflecting their views on abortion -- it might as well be the parents.

So, I agree that someone as young as 13 doesn't necessarily have the maturity to deal with making a decision of this kind. I also agree that it is not a topic on which anyone can be truly impartial. However I disagree that "it might as well be the parents"

IMO it would be better for someone who has no strong emotional ties to the girl in question to advise them as to possible courses of action. While they will certainly have their own bias I would hope that the sort of person who would, for example, tell a girl she would burn in hell for having an abortion, would not be in a position of advising that girl in the first place.

Parents, however, have more than just an opinion on the subject. They have all the additional emotional baggage that goes with discovering that their underage daughter has not only been sexually active, but has become pregnant as a result. Even the very best parents will have underlying thoughts along the lines of 'what did I do wrong' and any child will pick up on that. I myself am not a parent and cannot imagine the range of emotions involved when your teen daughter tells you she’s pregnant, but I doubt that the first thoughts would be about giving impartial advice.

I agree with Anita in that children with good parents may feel able to discuss it with them. It's the ones with the not so good parents or the outright bad ones who have the problem. Even good parents may have expressed a strong opinion in the past that differs with the girl’s opinion.

Imagine a girl of, say, 15 who discovers she is pregnant, decides she wants an abortion but is forced to tell her parents of this. She feels that an abortion would be for the best but her parents are strongly anti-abortion. Are they going to be able to sit back and allow their daughter to make a decision that goes against their strongly held beliefs? No, they are going to express their feelings, as anyone would, put in that position.

The difference is that where a girl may be able to listen to such from a relative stranger such as a doctor, and say to that person that ‘yes I see your point of view but this is my decision’, she may not be able to do the same with her parents. After all these are her parents.

As a teenager you feel that your parents control your life. They make decisions for you in every aspect of your life and they have the power to make you do things you may not want to do. Granted these things are usually small, like tidying your room, doing homework, helping with housework and so on. However, faced with a big issue like this, there is nothing in a child’s experience to make them believe that their parents will not try and rule over them in this matter as they do in all others.

This is why I feel that parental consent should not be required in these cases. I do believe that there should be counselling services available for these girls and that an adult should be with them for the procedure, either a parent or an authorised counsellor, as no girl should have to go through that kind of an ordeal alone.