Point & Counterpoint

By Emma Claire Sohn

Preventing the exploitation of children

Society presumes that most parents have their children’s best interests at heart. That is why parents are solely empowered to make economic choices, school choices and living choices with complete autonomy on behalf of their children. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule which is why we have the Department of Children and Family Services.

Now in the case of abortion, the idea that parents have their children’s best interests in mind is thrown out the window. All of the sudden, as a class, all parents are presumed to be wholly untrustworthy. A child’s signature is legally meaningless, but all of the sudden they can consent to an abortion. A child cannot be treated in a hospital (with the narrow exception of immediate life-threatening injuries) without a parent’s approval, but all of the sudden they can consent to an elective abortion.

Instead, it is presumed the only one with the best interests of the child in mind are organizations like Planned Parenthood. Oh, by the way, they have a financial interest in seeing the abortion performed as they do charge for that service. A parent might invidiously get in the way of those abortionists’ income streams. How dare they!

In some cases, one could argue the need for a parental bypass for abortion. However, that is why the law requires just such a procedure. The child can go to court and explain to the judge the necessity of the bypass. It would be a quick hearing that would surely entail all the records being sealed afterward. This way a judge can see if there is a legitimate reason or if DCFS needs to be involved.

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    Sure, in some cases parents might be the one to blame for getting the child pregnant. That is why all medical providers, including those who kill babies for a living, are required by law to report all cases of suspected child abuse. Here’s a hint: When a child comes in pregnant who just so happens to be under the age of consent, child abuse has taken place. They are required, by law, to call DCFS in all of those cases.

    However, in both Kansas and Indiana, Planned Parenthood has filed lawsuits to “protect” the disclosure of underage girls given abortions so that presumably their rapist boyfriends can go free. In fact, according to a study “Sex Abuse and the Single Girl” almost 45,000 cases of child rape were covered up by Planned Parenthood in 1999 alone. In fact, in tape recorded conversations by Life Dynamics, Planned Parenthood officials admitted to be willing to cover up for child rapists. Their TeenWire site encourages these young girls to get into relationships with older men. It should be obvious by any standard who has kids’ best interests in mind.

    Society and the law entrust parents with complete authority to raise their children. This has worked for thousands of years. Parents have their children’s best interests in mind and there are clear processes to deal with the exceptions to the rule, even when abortion is on the line.

    John Bambenek

    The Flaw in the Law: How Parental Notification Misses the Point

    Last week, under pressure from active conservative organizations, the Illinois Supreme Court announced it would strip young women of their reproductive rights. Well, they didn’t quite say that, but they did say that they would make enforceable rules for a defunct piece of legislation from 1995 which mandated that women under the age of 18 receiving an abortion must have their parents notified 48 hours in advance.

    This would follow in the footsteps of 34 other states that have enforced parental notification or consent legislation. In many of these states, courts constructed rules by which women under the influence of this law could file waivers in court for extenuating circumstances, such as rape, incest, or “sufficient maturity.” It sounds too good to be true; a widespread, balanced approach to a sensitive legal issue.

    And it is. Helena Silverstein, a professor at Lafayette University and a researcher of the enforcement of judicial bypass, notes that in almost no case is any state court system equipped to handle or support young women filing motions to waive the notification requirement. In Pennsylvania, she notes, almost two thirds of the courts would not or could not handle such requests. In some states like Alabama and Tennessee, judges refused to grant waiver hearings on ideological grounds.

    Imagine being a young female in need of abortion services; navigating the courts to make sure your reproductive rights are upheld is daunting with an ill-equipped judicial system and little to no access to legal services.

    Who are we trying to protect with this law? Parental notification is aimed at preventing abortions, masked as the concern for women’s well being. But the women who are most affected by this law need it least. Girls who are raped or molested by family members, who suffer domestic abuse, whose families would kick them out of the household for an attempt at controlling the fate of their own bodies, these are the women whom this law is going to hurt.

    In Illinois, minors have the right to consent to STD testing, mental health services, contraceptives, prescription medicine, and many other treatments without parental notification. Moreover, the age of consent in Illinois is 17. Thus the current state Supreme Court wants to activate a law which implies that minor females can do anything they want with their bodies, including consent to sex at 17, except have access to the full range of available reproductive services to deal with the implications of sentient and sexual freedom.

    I know that for some, this debate is not about parental notification, but abortion itself. This is not the place for that fascinating and colorful debate, because the fact is that most Americans have a much more complex view of abortion than simply allowing or disallowing it. As such we must pay attention to the fact that these laws — restrictive parental consent and notification laws — seem moderate or reasonable at first glance. In practice, though, they function only to take away the rights of those who most seriously need them.

    Lally Gartel