Your prop 4 saga!

If you live in California, you’ve probably heard about Prop 4, which would require parental notification for teenagers seeking abortion care. What’s scary about this proposition is that, unlike more extreme anti-choice laws, it actually looks pretty innocuous on paper. Supporters claim that it’ll foster communication between pregnant teens and their parents by having doctors contact the parents if said teen terminates a pregnancy. And abusive families? Oh, don’t worry about that – teens can just have the clinic contact a trusted relative, or they can go before a judge and obtain a waiver. Everyone wins!

Despite what your voter registration guide says, however, this is not what will actually happen.

Before I address the “exceptions” for abusive families, let me go through the ethical and practical reasons why parental notification is not a good idea. First off, a law can’t force families to communicate. If a teenager has gotten to the point where she’d rather pay for and go through an abortion alone than ask her parents for help, her family most likely has problems that a form letter isn’t going to solve. Yes, that’s what parental notification is: it’s not a visit from a counselor, it’s not a kindly intervention, it’s a form letter that either is hand-delivered or comes in the mail. And what is the teen supposed to do when it arrives? Stand there sheepishly as her parents open it?

A lot of people oppose consent, but are okay with the idea of notification. However, since there’s a mandatory 48 hour waiting period between notification and the procedure, requiring notification effectively equals requiring consent. If you don’t want your daughter to terminate, are you really going to sit on your hands while she goes ahead and does it? Especially if you’re already angry that you found out from a form letter?

Here’s one myth about parental notification: that it has lowered teen pregnancy rates in other states. This is a blatant lie. There is no connection between parental notification and lowered teen pregnancy rates. The cause of reductions in teen pregnancy is comprehensive sex education and accessible contraception, not parental notification. (Big thanks to Petitpoussin for the info.) Also, supporters like to claim that no teen has ever been harmed by parental notification. However, issues like abuse and teen pregnancy are complex and interconnected, so while it may be difficult to pin down one single cause of harm – for example, “If she had terminated the pregnancy, her father wouldn’t have hit her” – that doesn’t mean parental notification laws aren’t playing a part.

Here’s another myth: that parental notification protects teens from sexual predators. If you look at the argument in your voter registration guide, you’ll see that supporters don’t even attempt to explain how this would work. They’re using buzzwords to scare people into voting anti-choice.

And, hey, you know how they’re calling it “Sarah’s law?” Because of Sarah, who was killed when a sexual predator forced her to get an abortion, which was botched? Well, turns out there is no Sarah. The woman on whom the law is based was an adult; her situation had nothing to do with parental notification.

All this and more at the No on Prop 4 website.

Finally, one common argument is that if teens need their parents’ permission to take a Tylenol, then surely their parents should be notified if they’re undergoing a surgical procedure. Yeah, about that. All my life, I’ve suffered from severe menstrual cramps. Unless I’m already taking large doses of pain medication before the cramps start, I find myself in excruciating pain, completely unable to function. One day, when I was 16, the cramps hit me by surprise in 4th period English. By the time I got to the nurse’s office, I was sweating, shaking, and close to throwing up from the pain. I had to sit there for a full hour while the nurse contacted my mother and my mother finished an appointment and drove across town to plunk three pills in my hand. If I’d known I was going to get my period that day, I would have just broken the rules and brought my own.

So you know what? Maybe we should allow teens to make choices about their own bodies.

Now, these exceptions. I could sit here and tell you about why they don’t actually protect teens in abusive homes, but why take my word for it? Let’s play Choose Your Own Adventure: Your Prop 4 Saga!

A quick note before you start off on your adventure – while researching for this post, I found out that this is such a great idea that the No on 4 Campaign already had it. For a more detailed version of this story, see Jane’s Journey: Jane Goes to the Doctor.

YOUR PROP FOUR SAGA!

No, the test’s not lying: you’re pregnant. And fifteen. Maybe your boyfriend pressured you into sex; maybe the condom failed; maybe your abstinence program taught you that contraception’s useless anyway. Or maybe you’re just a normal human being who made a bad call. Anyway, looks like it’s time to go to the clinic. Your boyfriend expresses his condolences and stops returning your phone calls – after all, it’s not like he had anything to do with this. You don’t have a car, so you spend forty minutes on the bus. But at least it’ll be over soon.

“I need an abortion,” you say at the clinic.

“No problem,” says the nurse. “We’ve got those. Now, since you’re underage, we do need to notify your parents that you’re seeking care.”

Crap. That’s exactly what you were trying to avoid.

If you feel comfortable notifying your parents, click here. If you don’t, click here.

**

“Darn it,” you say. “I was afraid that I’d get grounded if my mom found out I was pregnant… but you know what? Now that I think about it, I guess that deep down I do kind of want to tell them. Okay, never mind – I’ll go home and do it myself.”

CONGRATULATIONS! You have a loving and respectful relationship with your parents. After you return home and tell them what’s going on, they give you a big hug and a cup of cocoa and then drive you back to the clinic the next day. After the procedure, you go on with your life, graduating from high school and college and starting a family when you’re thirty-two and firmly established in your career. You call your parents every week – just to talk!

THE END!

**

What would happen if your parents found out you were pregnant – and even worse, that you sought an abortion? You shudder to think. They might kick you out of the house. They might physically abuse you. You can’t say for sure, but you’re really, seriously scared.

“No,” you say. “No, no, no. You don’t understand. My parents can’t know about this. Trust me, they can’t know.”

“Well,” the nurse says, “you could always notify another relative. Do you have an aunt? A sister? A grandmother?”

You’re flooded with relief. “My cousin,” you say. “Could you notify my cousin? Here, I’ll call her right now.”

“Wait a minute,” the nurse says as you pull out your cell phone. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on. We’ll send her the letter after you fill out and sign this affidavit stating that your parents abuse you.”

If you personally have been abused by your parents, click here. If you haven’t been abused, but have witnessed abuse in your household and/or know that your parents would react violently if they found out what you’re doing, click here.

**

You look at the form. “So I have to write down all of the things my parents have done to me? And then you’ll notify my cousin instead? This is all confidential, right?”

“Oh, no,” the nurse says. “We’re required to report it to the police.”

“What!?” you cry. “What’ll happen then!?”

“Well, they’ll open an investigation,” the nurse says, “and either a social worker or the police will come talk to you.”

The thought of the police showing up at your doorstep is too frightening to even consider. What would happen? Would you be put into foster care somewhere? Would the police leave you with your parents, who’d be angry at you for getting them into trouble? No one seems to get that if it were as simple as calling the police, you would have done that a long time ago. “Come on,” you plead. “That’s so stupid! That’ll make things even worse! And if the police come then my parents’ll find out about the abortion anyway!”

“You could do judicial bypass,” the nurse says. “Do you know about that?”

Click here.

**

“Well,” you say, “my sister has been abused – does that count?”

The nurse shakes her head. “Sorry, it has to have been abuse against you.”

“But I know it will happen if my parents find out I’m pregnant,” you say.

The nurse winces understandingly, but is firm. “That’s not enough,” she says. “If you yourself haven’t been abused, we have to notify your parents.”

You’re about ready to cry. “That doesn’t make sense,” you say. “I am one hundred percent positive that bad things will happen if they know. Isn’t there any other way?”

“Do you know about judicial bypass?” she asks.

Click here.

**

“You mean like go in front of a judge?” you ask. “How long will that take? Because I think I’ve been pregnant for a few weeks already and I don’t have enough money for a second trimester abortion.”

“Then you need to work fast,” the nurse says. A volunteer comes in to explain, briefly, how to go about it – and you leave the clinic feeling like you’re drowning in details.

If you have the time, transportation, and savviness to navigate your way through the California court system by yourself, click here. If you are most fifteen-year-olds, click here.

**

A week later, you stand in a court room full of people waiting for their cases to be heard, along with your lawyer, your guardian ad litem, and perhaps a translator. You wish you didn’t have to broadcast your story to the entire world. “…and that’s why I can’t notify my parents,” you finish.

The judge sighs.

Flip a coin. If it comes up HEADS, hot diggity dog! The judge waives your parental notification requirement. Click here. If it comes up TAILS, sorry! Your judge happens to be anti-choice. Click here.

**

Oops! Looks like a safe abortion in a professional setting isn’t an option for you. God bless America!

So what are you going to do?

If you resign yourself to teen motherhood, click here. If you decide to self-induce or seek a back-alley abortion, click here.

**

CONGRATULATIONS! You return to the clinic and they perform the procedure. Just in time, too – another week or so and you would have hit your second trimester, making all of your efforts for naught. You breathe a sigh of relief and go on with your life, eventually escaping your abusive household.

THE END!

**

Well, it’s been five months, the baby has turned, and now you’re really starting to show. Maybe you’re looking into adoption, or maybe you’ve given up on college. The most pressing concern right now, though, is how your parents are taking the news.

Maybe they’re hitting you. Maybe they threw you out. Maybe you even fear for your life. Who knows? Who cares? You brought it on yourself, slut! Now love that baby!

THE END!

**

You decide to take matters into your own hands. Going to another state isn’t an option, but you know there are people who perform abortions illegally. You know there are herbs or medication you can take. Hell, you’ve heard of people miscarrying from getting punched in the stomach. There has to be a way to do this.

Flip a coin. If it comes up HEADS, you either couldn’t find any options or tried something that didn’t work. Click here. If it comes up TAILS, you’ve done something extremely dangerous to your body. Click here.

**

You’re dead.

That’s what you get for having sex.

THE END!

**

When in doubt, just remember that the people who drafted prop 4 aren’t concerned with protecting teens; they’re concerned with limiting access to safe abortion. And despite its “exceptions,” this law will do just that.

So. If you live in California, please volunteer to help with the No on 4 campaign. If you live outside of California, or don’t have time in your schedule (I know a lot of people are already involved in multiple campaigns), please donate.

(Cross-posted at Modern Mitzvot.)

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Elections and politics, Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

51 Responses to Your prop 4 saga!

  1. 1
    Molly says:

    To be 100% fair, although I disagree with this law because it wouldn’t be practical, most medical procedures require parental consent in minors

  2. 2
    Myca says:

    most medical procedures require parental consent in minors

    Well, yeah, and that’s actually something I think is a problem. I wouldn’t put a 5 year old and a 15 year old in the same category of consent when it comes to a flu shot, much less an abortion.

    —Myca

  3. 3
    Renee says:

    This is yet another attempt to role back abortion. It is further dangerous. I remember when I was 16 my BF was beaten terribly one day because her father saw her kissing a boy, I think he would have done far worse had he realized that she was sexually active.
    It is a terrible law. If the parent says no is the child going to be forced to carry a child that she does not want and cannot hope to care for? Couching this in terms of parental rights is just to blind people from the fact that it is meant to reduce access to abortion. What you are going to see happen is teenage girls resulting to things like coat hangers. How much proof do they need that every role back of abortion leads to death for women.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    I thought this was just a brilliant, brilliant post.

  5. 5
    allison says:

    Amp, I could not agree more!

  6. 6
    james says:

    If you require parental notification when teens become pregnant, but don’t require notification upon them aborting, that’s not neutral – that is pro-abortion. Teens who don’t wish their parents to find out about their pregnancies are going to be pushed into having abortions.

    I am pro-choice. But I do not think it is appropriate to approach the issue of teenagers being pushed into having abortions because they are terrified of their parents with the insouciance that you have. If someone wants an abortion because they are frightened they are going to get the shit kicked out of them otherwise, they shouldn’t be given one. In (h) you even present this as a happy ending. But in reality – and I hate to put it in such strong terms, but want to lay out the unvarnished truth – you’re advocating surgery be performed upon non-consenting children coerced by violence.

    For the record I’m also slightly concerned about the way child abuse is approached in these discussions. People seem very concerned in theory, but very reluctant to involve the authories in practice. The prefered response seems to be to trust the good judgment of a child and hope the problem will go away, I’m not sure that’s the correct response.

    I thought this was just a brilliant, brilliant post.

    Seriously, there’s such a huge gulf here. We don’t think in even remotely the same way. I read the post and was horrified.

  7. 7
    PG says:

    If you require parental notification when teens become pregnant, but don’t require notification upon them aborting, that’s not neutral – that is pro-abortion. Teens who don’t wish their parents to find out about their pregnancies are going to be pushed into having abortions.

    People who oppose parental notification for abortion also oppose requiring parental consent/ notification for teens’ accessing contraception. It’s not a “pro-abortion” bias, it’s a “let-teens-decide-their-reproductive-future” bias.

    And where is the requirement of parental notification when teens become pregnant? You can buy a pregnancy test without showing ID, y’know. There’s a certain degree of “parental notification” in the sense that your parents should notice that you’re pregnant once you’re throwing up in the mornings or showing heavily or going into labor, but none of those “notifications” are made by government mandate.

    Also, none of this post is premised on the idea that “someone wants an abortion because they are frightened they are going to get the shit kicked out of them otherwise.” That’s a complete strawman in this discussion. This person wants an abortion her parents don’t have to be notified about because she’s afraid she’ll get the shit kicked out of her if they DO know she’s had an abortion or is seeking one.

  8. 8
    Myca says:

    If you require parental notification when teens become pregnant, but don’t require notification upon them aborting, that’s not neutral – that is pro-abortion.

    Who on earth is in favor of requiring parental notification when teens become pregnant? How the hell would that even work?

    Seriously, James, are you just making stuff up now?

    But in reality – and I hate to put it in such strong terms, but want to lay out the unvarnished truth – you’re advocating surgery be performed upon non-consenting children coerced by violence.

    No, I think the advocacy is for the right of a teen (NOTE: Not a child, dude.) to make her own choice when faced with a couple of unpalatable options, rather than having any choice forced upon her by either her parents or the government.

    —Myca

    ps. Also, what PG said. The position that “someone wants an abortion because they are frightened they are going to get the shit kicked out of them otherwise” is something that’s invented by you, not something contained in the post. I’d agree that there’s a large gulf in understanding here, but I suspect it’s pretty much on your end.

  9. 9
    Penny says:

    James, look up “minor consent laws.” They differ by state, but in most cases, teens 15 and over can already consent to a wide range of health services, including many pregnancy-related health services, without parental consent or notification. Here’s a discussion of Maryland’s, for example:
    http://thecurvature.com/2008/02/06/maryland-school-district-violates-pregnant-students-rights/

    Money quote:

    Maryland’s minor consent law, which applies to those younger than 18, says teenagers do not have to inform parents to receive health services, including pregnancy testing, contraceptives and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

  10. 10
    Nick Kiddle says:

    If someone wants an abortion because they are frightened they are going to get the shit kicked out of them otherwise, they shouldn’t be given one.

    If someone wants an abortion because it looks like the only escape route from a shitty situation, denying them is only going to make things worse.

  11. 11
    Dianne says:

    Not bad, but to be truly realistic, more of the scenarios should end with “you’re dead.” For example, “You decide to risk telling your abusive family about your pregnancy. As you feared, they do not take it well. Your father hits you over the head with a pipe, crushing your skull and causing your brain to hemorrhage down your spinal cord. You’re dead.” Or “Your family kicks you out. You try staying with friends but none can keep you long and their parents don’t want you hanging around ‘influencing’ their children. You end up on the streets where the local predators eventually rape and murder you.” “Your parents are strict but not really abusive so you don’t feel comfortable making a complaint or going the bypass route. You tell them. They’re angry and yell a lot but don’t hit you or kick you out. They do, however, insist that you go through with the pregnancy no matter what. They keep insisting this when you gain twice your weight in edema and develop a splitting headache. When you seize and die of eclampsia, they say it was God’s will and give you a lovely funeral.”

  12. 12
    PG says:

    Dianne:

    “Your parents are strict but not really abusive so you don’t feel comfortable making a complaint or going the bypass route. You tell them. They’re angry and yell a lot but don’t hit you or kick you out. They do, however, insist that you go through with the pregnancy no matter what. They keep insisting this when you gain twice your weight in edema and develop a splitting headache. When you seize and die of eclampsia, they say it was God’s will and give you a lovely funeral.”

    Yes, I think this would have been a good thing to include, because it’s unrealistic to say that the world of parenting is divided between parents who are their kids’ BFFs and will support their daughters’ choices, and parents who are guilty of criminal abuse (as in your pipe wielding father example) or criminal neglect (as in your kicked out in the street example). There is a huge gray area of parents who will impose unpleasant consequences on their children that do not rise to the level of a crime. However, I am skeptical of the “seize and die of eclampsia” unless you also posit that these parents don’t allow their pregnant daughter access to a physician.

  13. 13
    Myca says:

    However, I am skeptical of the “seize and die of eclampsia” unless you also posit that these parents don’t allow their pregnant daughter access to a physician.

    Well, to be fair, a non-trivial number of people do oppose health exceptions to abortion.

    Some of these people are even taken seriously enough they they end up running for president.

    —Myca

  14. 14
    PG says:

    Yes, many politicians oppose health exceptions, but a) that’s not what Prop. 4 is about, so the two shouldn’t be conflated; and b) even the “partial birth abortion” ban had an exception for the life of the mother. Any measure without an exception for the mother’s life is dead-on-arrival Constitutionally, even post-Carhart.

  15. 15
    Diatryma says:

    Who decides when a condition threatens the life of the mother?

  16. 16
    james says:

    “Seriously, James, are you just making stuff up now?”

    No, I’m just spectacularly bad at proof reading. I meant parents will find out if you continue the pregnancy, but don’t if you have the abortion. And they will find out if you end up giving birth. And this does push people towards abortion.

    “ps. Also, what PG said. The position that “someone wants an abortion because they are frightened they are going to get the shit kicked out of them otherwise” is something that’s invented by you, not something contained in the post.”

    I think it was, though a bit obliquely.

    What would happen if your parents found out you were pregnant … You shudder to think. They might kick you out of the house. They might physically abuse you.

    But either way, it is not a situation ‘invented’ by me. It actually happens that there are girls who will get the shit kicked out of them if their parents find out they’re pregnant – and it’s worth thinking about when if comes to considering abortion law. My problem is that it’s not something the post or really any of the commentors worry about.

    This site’s incredibly one-sided, myopic, and partisan. That’s actually why I read it, it’s really valuable if you want to see a case strongly put. But it’s a huge weakness not to think there’s any value to another viewpoint. In this case, yes, you have a point there are children whose parents will force them to carry a child to term – and it is worth worrying about. But you can’t just base you entire position on that and ignore that there’s another side too: there are children who are coerced into an abortion because they fear abuse if their parents find out they got pregnant. I do feel uncomfortable with just how accepting people are of this outcome and even how it’s being framed as a bit of a positive.

  17. 17
    PG says:

    It actually happens that there are girls who will get the shit kicked out of them if their parents find out they’re pregnant – and it’s worth thinking about when if comes to considering abortion law.

    Certainly there are a multitude of reasons someone might not want to be pregnant, and one of them could be that she doesn’t want her parents to criminally abuse or neglect her because of her pregnancy. However, you haven’t explained why a parental notification law regarding abortion would do anything help someone in that situation. You haven’t even posited an alternative to the current state of the law, in which only actual abuse/ neglect is prosecutable, that would address the problem of a teenager’s taking an action because of her *fear* of abuse or neglect.

    This post is about a specific proposed law, currently on the ballot, which is considered likely to pass. The post tries to put voters in the shoes of someone who may be negatively impacted by the law as a means of persuading people to vote against it. Would you like to explain either why Prop. 4 will do any good for teenagers in the situations you’ve described, or provide an alternative to Prop. 4 that will?

  18. 18
    Dianne says:

    However, I am skeptical of the “seize and die of eclampsia” unless you also posit that these parents don’t allow their pregnant daughter access to a physician.

    Oddly enough, this is the scenario is based on a case I witnessed peripherally. The others aren’t. In the real life case, the teen in question was under 16 and had no driver’s license much less a car and so was dependent on her parents for transportation to the doctor’s. They thought she was just whining when she complained of a headache and passed off the weight gain as “just eating too much” so didn’t take her to the doctor for quite some time while she developed worsening preeclampsia. The pregnant girl didn’t, for whatever reason, call a friend or even 911 herself. Maybe she thought she was just complaining or deserved the pain or something. Five+ months of being told that you’re an evil slut will do things to a person’s mind, particularly a kid’s. In the parents’ very partial defense, the daughter did have a history of somatization (no big surprise given that she was pregnant, miserable about it, sure her life was over, and being verbally abused if she showed the least bit of feeling) and they did call 911 as soon as she went into status epilepticus. (Whether they ignored more transient seizures earlier I couldn’t say.) By then it was too late. The kid was pretty dam close to brain dead by the time she hit the ER.

    The bottom line is that any law restricting abortion* is going to result in more dead women and girls. They may die from abuse, they may die from pregnancy complications, they may die from back alley abortions. But they will die. If you’re ok with that, then I guess anti-choice laws are for you.

    *Beyond, of course, the restrictions placed on any medical procedure, i.e. that it should be performed by a qualified and licensed professional.

  19. 19
    Myca says:

    But you can’t just base you entire position on that and ignore that there’s another side too: there are children who are coerced into an abortion because they fear abuse if their parents find out they got pregnant. I do feel uncomfortable with just how accepting people are of this outcome and even how it’s being framed as a bit of a positive.

    A bit of a positive? No. I don’t view any coercion of a pregnant teenager as a positive.

    What I view as a positive is the teen herself deciding:

    a) whether she wants to tell her parents or not.
    b) whether to abort or not.
    c) whether to keep the child or not.

    This law, right here, coerces a pregnant teen to notify her parents, and, by force of law, refuses her an abortion unless they’re notified. Therefore I oppose it.

    If you’re against the coercion of pregnant teens, then you’re against this law. Period.

    —Myca

  20. 20
    PG says:

    The bottom line is that any law restricting abortion* is going to result in more dead women and girls. They may die from abuse, they may die from pregnancy complications, they may die from back alley abortions. But they will die. If you’re ok with that, then I guess anti-choice laws are for you.
    *Beyond, of course, the restrictions placed on any medical procedure, i.e. that it should be performed by a qualified and licensed professional.

    That’s not the only restriction placed on medical procedures; there also are requirements relating to adequate facilities, informed consent, etc. And women die from pregnancy complications even when they’ve had unlimited access to abortion and chosen not to abort, just as women very rarely will die from abortion complications. Life is risky like that. Parents who don’t take their daughter for regular prenatal checkups (which presumably would catch the warning signs of preeclampsia) aren’t just being restrictive of her right to choose abortion; they’re showing disregard for her life and even that of the fetus.

  21. 21
    james says:

    This goes back to what I’m saying about how partisan this site is. You’re fixated on supporting or opposing Prop 4. I haven’t actually expressed an option on Prof 4 itself, and I’m not going to.

    What I am saying is that proponents of Prop 4 are openly supporting it on the basis that teenagers who fear abuse can have an abortion to conceal their pregnancy, and this is a good idea. I really feel very uncomfortable with this. Prop 4 may be a perfectly good law, but supporting what are basically coerced abortions, and supporting the law for this reason, is just wrong.

    What I view as a positive is the teen herself deciding: … b) whether to abort or not.

    Great. Are you really comfortable with Prop 4 advocates supporting children getting abortions to conceal pregnancies. Is it really a ‘choice’ if you only make it because of the threat of violence?

    That’s not the only restriction placed on medical procedures; there also are requirements relating to adequate facilities, informed consent, etc.

    I agree. This is why I feel uneasy; I don’t think it’s ‘consent’ if someone wants an abortion because they fear violence if their pregnancy is revealed. I think the correct response in this situation would be to refuse an abortion on the grounds of non-consent, and involve the police and social services. Many Prop 4 advocates take the opposite view that an abortion should be administered and the prospect of violence should be concealed from the authorities.

  22. 22
    Myca says:

    proponents of Prop 4 are openly supporting it on the basis that teenagers who fear abuse can have an abortion to conceal their pregnancy, and this is a good idea.

    No. What you are saying there is a lie, and you need to stop saying it. Also, I think you’ve confused ‘proponents’ and ‘opponents’

    Here’s something that might be a bit more accurate:

    Opponents of Prop 4 are openly supporting it on the basis that teenagers who fear abuse are in a better position to make a choice about that abuse than you are, and this is a good idea.”

    Are you really comfortable with Prop 4 advocates supporting children getting abortions to conceal pregnancies.

    If a teenager (once again, not the same thing as a child) believes that she so badly needs to conceal a pregnancy that an abortion is the only option, I am comfortable with the idea that she is the one to decide. Also, you’ve confused ‘advocate’ and ‘opponent’.

    It disturbs me that the proponents of Proposition 4 are in favor of teenage girls being beaten to death, and that they seem to consider it a good thing.

    Like I said, I oppose coercion. I am in favor of helping teenagers in shitty situations. Prop 4 coerces teenage girls and does next to nothing to help them out of shitty situations.

    For all your talk about ‘how bad coercion is’, you seem a hell of a lot less concerned with denying abortions to pregnant teenage girls who want them and notifying their parents against their will.

    —Myca

  23. 23
    Sailorman says:

    Myca, as you know I am extraordinarily pro-choice, but you seem to be operating on the assumption that teenagers = adults. We have gotten into a similar argument on a variety of threads, IIRC, and I see no need to rehash those arguments here at length and will give only the basic point. Suffice it to say that there are plenty of people (I count myself as one) who can simultaneously:

    -Be extremely pro choice
    and
    -Not support the abuse etc. of teenagers
    and
    -Believe that teenagers should be treated in a manner which (for an adult) would be considered patronizing.

    Most of them, I suspect, also do not consider”teens” to be alike; I would be much more willing to put restrictions on a 13 year old or 12 year old (non a teen, but fully capable of getting pregnant) than i would on a girl who was 17 years and 11 months old.

    Not only would I place those restrictions with comfort, but I would also tend to rely lesson the judgment of youngsters than of adults. Is a 13 year old girl capable of evaluating, really, the pros and cons of reporting abuse, or of an abortion? perhaps she is, perhaps not. Certainly, I would argue that there is a significant difference in evaluative skill between that girl and a 17 year old girl, or a 35 year old woman. there is also a significant difference in understanding of life; 13 year olds rarely have a correct view of the world (nor do many adults, but i am speaking in generalities here.)

    So, here is a way to have this discussion without havng to have it, if you know what I mean:

    Do you acknowledge, hypothetically, that if you believed that age has a significant effect on judgment, knowledge, and ability to make decisions, you might feel uncomfortable with the concept that teens could elect to have abortions without any oversight?

    Personally, I think that as it is now written, it is a horrible law. but I am not so sure that this means there should be no similar law. If they replace the “only report actual abuse and end up in criminal court” with a better mechanism to address the realities of abusive situations, that would well be a better option. They should have some way of dealing with the range of ages instead of a black and white cutoff.

    But the concept of oversight remains appropriate.

  24. 24
    Myca says:

    Or, to put it another way, James … I believe that risks to the health of the pregnant woman should be an important factor in her decision on whether or not to abort.

    A couple options:

    1) If a pregnant woman says, “Yes, I know that this pregnancy is risky for me, but I want to have the baby, and I want top-notch medical care in order to minimize risk,” then I believe that that’s what she should have.

    2) If she says, “I know that this pregnancy is risky for me, and I am not confident that the medical care will be able to minimize the risk enough to make it safe, thus I want to abort,” then I believe an abortion should be available to her.

    If we turn this around and look at an abusive home situation:

    1) If a pregnant woman says, “I know that if my parents found out about this pregnancy, my living situation would be in jeopardy, and I might face physical violence, but I want to have the baby, and I want top-notch legal aid in order to avoid that violence and jeopardy,” then I believe that that’s what she should have.

    2) If she says, “I know that if my parents found out about this pregnancy, my living situation would be in jeopardy, and I might face physical violence, and I am not confident that legal aid and support would be available to me in order to avoid that violence and jeopardy, therefore I want to abort” then I believe an abortion should be available to her.

    My problem with proposition 4, and in particular with your argument, is that it cuts off ‘option 2′ without making ‘option 1′ viable. If a girl knows that her parents will hurt her upon discovering that she’d pregnant, but they’ve not yet abused her, she’s SOL. She won’t get the legal aid she needs, she won’t get another place to live . . . she’ll just get tossed to the wolves.

    And, of course, all of this hypothetical wanking ignores what I believe to be the much more likely scenario, that of the girl who wants an abortion, but who’s parents would physically prevent her from obtaining one if they knew.

    My girlfriend grew up in a fundamentalist religious home. Her comment on prop 4: “If I had been raped at 14, and I became pregnant, and Prop 4 was in effect, I would be a mother now. Period. My family would have physically forced me to carry the child.”

    So yeah, James, I do oppose coercion.

    —Myca

  25. 25
    Myca says:

    Myca, as you know I am extraordinarily pro-choice, but you seem to be operating on the assumption that teenagers = adults.

    Oh, certainly, but I also don’t believe that teenagers = children.

    I don’t have a problem with certain restrictions on teenagers either, Sailorman . . . I think smoking/drinking/driving/voting laws are pretty reasonable, I think charging minors as minors is reasonable, etc. They’re a different entity under the law, and that’s as it should be. Hell, I don’t think they should be able to get tattoos, either.

    My problem here has to do with the consequences of intervening in a situation where a teen has decided, for whatever reason, that she can’t discuss abortion with her parents, and making that decision for her.

    In the end, despite her status as a ‘teen’, she’ll be the one carrying a child to term if her parents force her to … not her parents, not the doctor, not the courts, and not you or I. Thus, I believe that she should be the one to make the decision … not her parents, not the doctor, not the courts, and not you or I.

    It’s really not like I believe teenagers have unimpeachable judgment, and it’s really not that I believe teenagers should have total control over every aspect of their lives … but control over whether or not they carry a child to term? Yeah, I believe they ought to have control over that.

    —Myca

  26. 26
    Sailorman says:

    OK, then. let’s start at basics and go from there:

    I am basing my position, generally, on the concepts that

    1) There is a gradation between “appropriate input given to an unwilling recipient” and “coercion.” That same gradation also applies for restrictions on decision making, restrictions on action, etc.

    2) This gradation is (generally) related to age.

    I suspect, though i am not sure, that you agree with those two (let me know, willya?)

    If you look at it that way, then you will see that an honest belief that something falls closer to one end or the other of that scale can be made based on a belief that the best interests of the child(ren) involved are at heart. This differences in where one puts a situation on the line don’t necessarily have anything at all to do with differences in how much one cares about the child involved.

    Obviously, people can have bad motives for anything. They can have bad motives for this too, from being sexist to being anti-sex, to being whatever else you can think of. But it is incorrect and fairly offensive for people to link the position on the line to caring about the child.*

    Do you see the distinction? It’s not that I think some form of notification might make sense because I want to benefit the state. It’s that I think it would, generally speaking, be in the bests interests of the child to have an appropriate law (though I agree that this particular law is inappropriate.)

    I don’t know where James comes down on this and I won’t speak for him. but it would be vastly incorrect to say that I “don’t oppose coercion.” I think you are coming dangerously close to implying that all of your opponents, by default, are in that category.

    *Not incidentally, this is completely different from when you start considering the interests of the other people or things involved, like the potential father, or the girl’s parents, or state, or blastula. THAT is a balancing act and generally somewhat of a zero sum game. In those cases, it is appropriate to say that someone who starts adding in other people’s interests is diminishing the girl’s interests, just as it is appropriate to say that someone who wants the girl to have all the power is ignoring the interests of the father.

  27. 27
    PG says:

    James, the reason why I point out that you’re not discussing the legal proposal that is the subject of this post and this thread is that the law is going to change one single thing. It is going to remove teenagers’ ability to get an abortion without a mandatory notification of their parents. In the existing world in which we live, where a teenager may fear that her parents will abuse or abandon her if they discover she either is pregnant or has had an abortion, Prop. 4 is bad because it forces that teenager to take the risk of the neglect or abuse by giving the info for notification, or alternatively of an unsafe abortion by a provider who doesn’t care about complying with the law.

    Yes, in the happy blessed world where we can ensure that there will be no abuse or neglect, and that the teenager will suffer no negative consequences at all from the notification, you’re right that it would be bad to oppose Prop. 4 on the basis described above. However, we don’t live there. You still haven’t proposed what legal regime would ensure that teenagers don’t suffer because of the combination of pregnancy and their parents’ disapproval of pregnancy (or of abortion).

    There is mandatory counseling before one can receive an abortion. Informed consent for any medical procedure doesn’t depend on “Do you consent to only the benefits and not the costs of this procedure,” but “After weighing the costs and benefits, do you wish to have this procedure?” For the purpose of any other medical procedure, I seriously doubt that you would say the patient hadn’t “consented” if she was doing it in order to avoid a negative consequence imposed by another person.

    For example, if I told a plastic surgeon that I was getting my breasts enlarged so my husband wouldn’t leave me for someone more attractive — even though I was OK with my breasts as they were — he isn’t supposed to paternalistically declare that my motivation is too impure and therefore I haven’t really “consented.” He may question me more closely to ensure that I am fully aware of the downsides, particularly that the breasts may degrade over time and therefore my husband may not always love them, but he isn’t supposed to decide what are the good or bad reasons to get a procedure.

  28. 28
    Myca says:

    Pace, pace, Sailorman, my snark about, “It disturbs me that the proponents of Proposition 4 are in favor of teenage girls being beaten to death, and that they seem to consider it a good thing,” was in response to James silly, insulting, and repeated suggestion that opponents of Prop 4 somehow consider it a good thing for girls to be forced to abort by threat of violence.

    If you’d like to have a serious discussion about proposition 4, that’s great, and I’m all for it … but as near as I can tell, James isn’t even really clear on what it does, or what opposition to it means.

    Furthermore, I don’t think that it’s impossible to both ‘favor coercion’ and ‘care about the pregnant teenager’. Please don’t assume that in saying that those who are in favor of Prop 4 are in favor of coercion (which I believe to be true), therefore, I believe that they don’t care about the pregnant teen (not necessarily true). If you force a teen to tell her parents about her pregnancy, that’s coercion … it may be well-intentioned, but that doesn’t make it ‘not coercion.’

    Broadly, the category of things which I believe a teenager ought to have full control over, without either her parent’s consent or knowledge are decisions which are irreversible, affect her personally and primarily, and couldn’t be changed later. Aborting falls into this category. So would taking a blood transfusion as a Jehovah’s Witness teen (I don’t believe that the parents of a 15-year-old JW girl should be able to refuse her a transfusion against her will). Tattoos don’t, because you can always get one later. Driving doesn’t, it affects other people. Etc, etc.

    These are my standards because in the end the burden of responsibility falls on the teen, and thus, it ought to be the teen making the decisions as to how best to deal with that responsibility.

    —Myca

  29. 29
    Myca says:

    For example, if I told a plastic surgeon that I was getting my breasts enlarged so my husband wouldn’t leave me for someone more attractive — even though I was OK with my breasts as they were — he isn’t supposed to paternalistically declare that my motivation is too impure and therefore I haven’t really “consented.”

    Bingo. Well put, PG.

    —Myca

  30. 30
    Sailorman says:

    Myca,

    As it is commonly used, “coercion” implies that the conduct is improper. There is, outside the Bush administration, little use for terms like “appropriate level of coercion.”

    So I do not believe myself to be “coercing” my children, for example, when I make them do (or not) do something, because this imposition of my parental authority is proper (and I suspect that you would have no problem agreeing that it is proper, as my kids are all extremely young.)

    By referring to all such acts as “coercion” you are–intentionally or not–making an a priori argument about the methods of your opponents: Even if you are well intentioned it is still coercion to make a teen say anything; coercion is not good; therefore it is not good to make a teen say anything.

    I do not believe either you or I are “right,” as there appears to be no easy method to determine this objectively. But I think that your stance is blind one one side and fails to recognize taht it has no objective footing to it.

  31. 31
    Mandolin says:

    I do not believe there is any way of constructing such a law so that it would adequately protect teenagers from their families.

    I say this having known an 11 year old forced by her parents to carry her own father’s child to term.

  32. 32
    Myca says:

    Ah, jeez, Sailorman, I actually really really hate to do this, and I hate it when other people do it, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to paste in a dictionary definition. Sorry.

    coerce |kōˈərs|
    verb [ trans. ]
    persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats : they were coerced into silence. See note at COMPEL.

    That was the sense in which I was using it. I think that most of the time, coercive conduct is improper, but I think that that implication in its use comes mostly because it’s not cool to use force or threats to get another adult to do something, not because it’s actually a component of the word.

    Obviously, children in general and your children in specific are a different matter, and in those situations, coercion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Another example sentence from the same dictionary: she was coerced into obedience by the threat of losing her telephone privileges. See? Nothing wrong with that. “Clean your room or you don’t get to go to the movies tonight’ is coercion.

    Once again, my stance is not that teenagers should have full control over their lives free of all coercion, but rather that when it comes to the matter of, ‘am I going to be pregnant, carry a baby to term, and be a mother,’ coercion is fucked up. That’s a matter where I do believe teenage girls should have full control.

    I’m not making a general argument against coercion, I’m making a specific argument against coercion in this case.

    Furthermore, much of the reason I was discussing coercion at all had to do with James’ insistence that opposing proposition 4 somehow equaled favoring ‘coercing’ teenage girls to abort. That’s shockingly stupid and insulting, and my point was that I oppose coercing reproductive choices out of pregnant women. Full Stop.

    —Myca

    PS. Also, of course, Mandolin is right, and everyone fucking knows it, but by all means, let’s all talk about coercion some more.

  33. 33
    joe says:

    Mandolin’s point is a good one, and a clear case where the parents should not have been told.

    But there are also situations with parents that are not evil (merely bad parents) and would use the knowledge that their daughter was pregnant to intervene in her life in a positive way. Perhaps by making sure she has access to and understanding of birth control, or in the case of one of my friends little sisters, by forcing the 24 year old boyfriend of their 14 year old daughter to keep away via the use of a restraining order. It wasn’t a pregnancy it was an STD that woke them up. But there was no way she, or my friend, were going to tell their mom what was going on if they could at all avoid it.

    I don’t think that any hard and fast rule can be applier here without some results that are less then perfect. I also think there’s room on both sides for well intentioned positions. I trust women to make better decisions about their lives than anyone else, but it’s possible to be biologically mature and still emotionally, and intellectually immature. So I don’t have the same conviction about every 12 year old girl.

    How does this work as a mechanism for getting the police/social workers into situations where they needed to be anyway? In other words, if the family situation is that bad, would the involvement of a social worker be a good thing?

  34. 34
    Daisy Bond says:

    Sailorman: I’m sort of confused by your comments. I agree that minors* are not adults and should not be treated as such, but when it comes to parental notification laws such as Prop 4, it just seems like a moot point. Can you think of any hypothetical situation involving a pregnant teenager who wants an abortion in which the ethical thing is to force her to carry to term?

    I can’t. And that’s the only real utility of such a law, as far as I can see — because if she should be allowed to have the abortion she wants, and, for her own reasons, doesn’t want to tell her parents, notifying her parents against her will serves only to make it harder for her to obtain the medical services she needs. Unlike most situations, I don’t think there’s a correlation here between age and need for parental oversight: it’s only more heinous to force a 12-year-old to bear a child than a 16-year-old.

    The only narrow area where it almost makes sense is in the case of a girl who is being abused and coerced into aborting by her abuser… But aren’t medical workers (and, you know, everybody) already supposed to contact the police if it seems that a child is being abused? Contacting her parents — who may be the abusers themselves — just makes no sense in any situation, unless you think there are cases in which underage girls should be forced to bear children against their will.

    * Nineteen-year-olds (such as a myself) are “teenagers,” but, except for drinking laws, are not minors.

  35. 35
    Joe says:

    Daisy, There’s the teen that isn’t fully aware of her medical history / allergic reactions and isn’t able to give the Dr. the information needed for a safe abortion. Just off the top of my head. There’s also the teen in an abusive relationship who doesn’t want her parents to know because they’ll try to end the relationship.

    Although I think it’s clear that any situation where the teen doesn’t want to tell her parents is going to be a bad situation no matter what happens with Prop 4.

  36. 36
    Daisy Bond says:

    Joe, those are interesting examples that I hadn’t thought of… But it seems to me that the teenager who can tell her parents almost certainly will. If her parents are going to support her, give her the necessary medical history info, etc., my guess is that that will almost certainly happen, as getting an abortion without your parents finding out is a pretty extraordinary feat for the average fifteen-year-old. Girls who follow that route are probably doing it out of necessity — so once again, I don’t think it makes any sense to endanger that girl unless your position is that she can’t decide for herself whether abortion in the right course (i.e. she should be forced to continue the pregnancy).

    The case of an abusive relationship (presumably between minors or else it should be reported anyway, if the situation is apparent) is noted, but seems like very much the exception, not the rule.

  37. 37
    Joe says:

    My sense (no data to back it up) is that Prop 4 is all about the exceptions and not the rules. As a rule, fathers don’t rape and impregnate their 11 year old daughters. Also as a rule 15 year olds don’t blithely have abortions to avoid embarrassing conversations with mom and dad. This one is all about the margins. I have no idea if there are more exceptions who’s lives will be made worse by Prop-4 or more exceptions whose lives would be made better by Prop 4.

    Of course I’m also sure that a lot people are in favor of prop 4 because any girl that get’s pregnant and has an abortion should sure as church on Sunday have to get punished by her parents.

  38. 38
    Dianne says:

    There’s the teen that isn’t fully aware of her medical history / allergic reactions and isn’t able to give the Dr. the information needed for a safe abortion.

    There are also 18-120 year olds who can’t remember their meds, remember that some medication put them in the ICU but all they can remember was it was a white pill, and forget little things like a past history of open heart surgery*. Who should they have to inform before they receive medical care?

    *I swear to FSM I’m not making that last one up. Pt said she had never had an operation in her life. On exam she had a huge scar on her sternum. Resident asked what that was. “Oh, that was the open heart surgery.” This was an apparently healthy 20something woman of normal intelligence who functioned very well in everyday life. Er…language problem? Is “operation” a more technical word than “surgery”?

  39. This one is all about the margins. I have no idea if there are more exceptions who’s lives will be made worse by Prop-4 or more exceptions whose lives would be made better by Prop 4.

    About 70% of teens tell their parents what’s happening without being prompted. So, yes, this law would mainly affect those teens on the margins.

  40. 40
    Mandolin says:

    “As a rule, fathers don’t rape and impregnate their 11 year old daughters.”

    A substantial portion of the sexual abuse of minors is committed by family members. That’s important to keep in mind.

  41. 41
    Myca says:

    Well, and since Prop 4 will only really affect those girls who’ve decided for one reason or another not to tell their parents, I would imagine that the percentage of both, “fathers who rape and impregnate their 11 year old daughters,” and “fathers who didn’t rape their daughter but will force them to remain pregnant nonetheless,” will be somewhat overrepresented compared to the general population.

    —Myca

  42. 42
    Mandolin says:

    I also think that Joe and others would do well to keep in mind that seeing the social services and the police as universal goods is a matter of privilege. I’ve been privileged in this respect myself – I’ve never been afraid to report anything that’s happened to me, never had reason to assume that I would be doubted or mistreated or unfairly suspected or abused. However, some of the abuse victims I’ve known have horror stories about dealing with social workers or police — certainly it is not an option that can be relied on to save the day in situations like the ones we’re discussing.

    There are a lot of potential problems and pitfalls in the system. Notification laws force a single solution on all contexts, and will inevitably injure people.

  43. 43
    Dianne says:

    I have no idea if there are more exceptions who’s lives will be made worse by Prop-4 or more exceptions whose lives would be made better by Prop 4.

    Whose life might be made better by Prop 4? Not meant as a snarky question: it’s just that I thought about it and really can’t think of anyone whose life would be improved by being forced to notify her parents if she wanted an abortion if she didn’t already feel comfortable informing them.

  44. 44
    joe says:

    Dianne, I gave an example of a person who I knew whose life was improved by her mother leaning she was sexually active with her 24 year old boyfriend.

    As to police/social workers being a purely good force, I know they’re not. But I’m thinking about situations where the family is so messed up that it’s really in the best interest of the child not to tell the parents about the pregnancy/abortion. I’m having a hard time coming to the conclusion that the best thing society can do is to provide medical care and than walk away. I think it’ll boil down to the particulars of the girl in question. A mature 17 year old can most likely make her own decision. A mature 11 year old probably can’t. An immature 15 year old would I think be on the bubble.

  45. 45
    Mandolin says:

    If the family is that messed up, and social workers are deployed through prop 4, but they can’t get the kid out — what do you think happens to the kid next?

  46. 46
    Myca says:

    I think it’ll boil down to the particulars of the girl in question. A mature 17 year old can most likely make her own decision. A mature 11 year old probably can’t. An immature 15 year old would I think be on the bubble.

    I understand the view, Joe, but since even the ‘mature 11 year old’ would be the one who’s body is affected by the pregnancy, who would deal with the emotional turmoil, and who would bear 18 years of legal responsibility for the child, who do you think should be making the decision?

    I mean, look, I hear you. An 11 year old isn’t ready to make huge life decisions. I agree. It’s just that I think forcing an 11 year old to carry a child to term against her wishes is so gigantically fucking monstrous and evil that it kind of trumps the ‘she isn’t ready to make decisions’ part.

    —Myca

  47. 47
    joe says:

    Mandolin Writes:

    October 22nd, 2008 at 7:06 am
    If the family is that messed up, and social workers are deployed through prop 4, but they can’t get the kid out — what do you think happens to the kid next?

    This comment was written by Mandolin.
    Report this comment to the moderators

    Nothing good happens. Usually only bad things happen when the system fails the protect people that can’t protect themselves. So de we try to set up rules assuming the system will fail? Or do we try to set up rules assuming that when a social worker is made aware of an abusive situation they’re able to help the kid and try to set up the rest of the system so that human failings do the minimum damage possible?

    I can’t see opposing this because the system might fail the children, even though I’m sure there will, unfortunately, be cases where it does. But when there’s a pregnant child whose family situation is so bad that the family should NOT be informed than there’s a situation where we, as a society need to try and help.

    To the extent that this would force people to have babies they don’t want I believe it to be evil. But to the extent that it allows us to intervene in abusive families and help the children in them I think it’s a good thing. And I’m still not sure where I’d land on that.
    .

  48. 48
    joe says:

    Myca Writes:

    October 22nd, 2008 at 7:59 am
    I mean, look, I hear you. An 11 year old isn’t ready to make huge life decisions. I agree. It’s just that I think forcing an 11 year old to carry a child to term against her wishes is so gigantically fucking monstrous and evil that it kind of trumps the ’she isn’t ready to make decisions’ part.

    I completely agree with you. I’m just not sure that when an 11 year old girl needs to have an abortion and can’t tell her parents that the best thing for me to do is give her one and than send her home to that same family with no further action on my part. Maybe it is.

    Also, my point about judgment had less to do with abortion and more to do with the decision of getting social services and the police involved. I did a poor job making that clear.

  49. 49
    Daisy Bond says:

    I mean, look, I hear you. An 11 year old isn’t ready to make huge life decisions. I agree. It’s just that I think forcing an 11 year old to carry a child to term against her wishes is so gigantically fucking monstrous and evil that it kind of trumps the ’she isn’t ready to make decisions’ part.

    Exactly. The fact is that if she’s “not ready to make the decision” and is seeking abortion, well, the only other option is forcing her to continue the pregnancy. It’s not like if she’s not ready to decide to have sex and parents can intervene and (maybe) stop her from having sex — the only other option is forced pregnancy and bringing an unwanted baby into the world. Ugh.

    So Joe,

    I completely agree with you. I’m just not sure that when an 11 year old girl needs to have an abortion and can’t tell her parents that the best thing for me to do is give her one and than send her home to that same family with no further action on my part. Maybe it is.

    I agree — it would be better if there were some other choice besides just sending her back, if she wants or needs another choice. But why on earth would notifying her parents be a good option here? It seems to me one might want to propose laws that ramp up social services available to teens, laws that help kids being abused, or set up safehouses for runaways, whatever. Forcing the girl to tell her parents is just a useless and terrible idea unless, once again, what you want is to give her parents the option to intervene in the decision making (that is to say, force their daughter to carry to term).

  50. 50
    Myca says:

    Forcing the girl to tell her parents is just a useless and terrible idea unless, once again, what you want is to give her parents the option to intervene in the decision making (that is to say, force their daughter to carry to term).

    Well, and see, that’s the point, isn’t it? This measure isn’t really about making the best decisions possible for teenagers, it’s about stopping abortions.

    The people pushing this would be horrified were the situations reversed and we were talking about forcing teens to abort unless their parents are informed. They’d be right to be horrified! I’d be horrified! The difference is, I’m horrified by this, too.

    —Myca

  51. 51
    Daisy Bond says:

    Indeed, Myca.

    Which is why I’m confused by Sailorman’s assertion at #23 that a similar law might be a good idea.