Many of us are too young to remember life before Roe v. Wade, but the fact of the matter is that before Roe v. Wade, many women died having illegal and unsafe abortions. This is the real reason we need to keep abortion safe and legal.
No one wants women to have or need abortions, trust me, but no matter how you feel morally on the topic, there is one fact we must all face. As long as women can get pregnant (even in cases where birth control methods are used or abstinence is taught), women will find themselves pregnant, and in many of those cases, the pregnancies will be unwanted. And in the states that require parental consent for abortions, there will always be teens who are unable to obtain that consent.
One brave mom shares her story and ongoing mission to help pregnant teens navigate the judicial bypass process to get safe abortions without parental consent or notification. This is far more complicated for many teens than one might guess.
I don't have a daughter. I have two sons. However, I was once a teenager, and I had friends who chose to get abortions for several reasons. Usually it was simple (not easy, simple...). In most cases, these girls did not go to their parents even though they had good, supportive ones. They instead chose the life path their parents had hoped for them and worked hard to give them -- rather than the often tougher option of single teen motherhood. And I can attest, their decisions were not made lightly. It was excruciatingly difficult.
Because our state does not require parental consent, these young women were allowed to obtain abortions -- safe and legal abortions. Something -- with or without my permission -- I would want to be available to my daughter, if I had one, or to any young girl pregnant by one of my sons ... if she decided to have an abortion.
"Everybody loves parental consent laws for abortion. They are an easy sell," writes American attorney A.J. Zachary in her piece over on The Scavenger.
She continues, "Who wouldn't want parents involved in the medical decisions of their daughter? And as the pundits are quick to point out the vast majority of teens approach their parents first anyway, so this law only affects a small number of young women.
What that means in practice is that the only people truly affected are the people you would least like to see affected: abused teens, abandoned teens, and teen in situations of novel dysfunction."
So what are we to do with this group of teens or even the teens from good families who find it impossible to approach their parents for whatever reason -- be it shame, fear of being made to have the child, fear of judgment? Do we simply hope they will find counsel who will convince them to have the baby and give it up for adoption. That's not very realistic, especially because oftentimes the women who seek abortion -- whether you believe it to be right or wrong -- are going to find a way to get one, as we saw prior to Roe v. Wade. Women didn't die having unsafe back alley abortions because they didn't have the resources to go through with the pregnancy. They died because they did not want to have a child, no way, no how. A choice some people may never understand, but the real and only choice for many.
Zachary chronicles real-life stories of teens unable to get parental consent or a judicial bypass on the consent law -- a teen who's mother was in jail and father was in Iraq, grandmothers who never became legal guardians of their abandoned grandchildren, abused teens, a college-bound Ethiopian teen with a full college scholarship, who faced being sent back to Africa, and teen girls who feared being tossed out on the streets and becoming homeless -- homeless and pregnant.
"None of these teens get to speak out -- it wouldn't be safe for them to," explains Zachary. "We get to pass laws that endanger their lives, but they can’t protest. I worked for them, tried to protect them, but have always kept a slight veil of anonymity because I’m afraid of the personal and professional consequences of doing the right thing, of talking about doing the right thing, in a world that bombastically declares it wrong.
I know I am helping the right-wing make something private into something shameful by being discrete."
It is brave women like Zachary who are working, at risk to their professional lives and personal safety, to keep our teenagers safe in a time of crisis. I wonder if there will ever be a way we can all see eye to eye on the need for such safeties. You don't have to believe in abortion to believe in the need to keep them safe and legal.
What are you thoughts on the topic of parental consent?
Photo via luckywhitegirl/Flickr