Last week the Illinois State Supreme Court issued a decision that ended an 18-year (cumulative) injunction of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act (the “Act”) that now requires health care providers to give 48-hour notification of one or both parent(s) of a minor seeking to obtain an abortion (see The Hope Clinic for Women, Ltd., v. Adams, 2011 IL App (1st) 101463).
Illinois now joins the other 38 states in the Union that have parental notification laws.
The Act does include “judicial bypass procedures,” which allows a minor to obtain an abortion without the consent of her parents with very specific terms, including, for example, if the mother is declared incompetent, if the complications of pregnancy would threaten her life or health, or if the resulting child will be disabled.
Though I am nominally pro-choice, I have come to question whether parental notification laws are all that bad for young teenaged women.
Parental notification laws can have a deleterious impact upon teenaged girls who are “in trouble,” not to mention the clinics in Illinois that perform abortion have less than 4 weeks (as of the date of this post) to comply with the new law. Waiting upon a court to grant exceptions in these cases often does lead to delay in obtaining the procedure, delays that could cause further complications not only for the mother, but the developing fetus as well.
What about the parents who are notified as a result of these laws? Barring the exceptions for rape and incest that often are raised in these types of discussions, what impact does parental consent actually have on the young women who are seeking an abortion?
John Walker’s thought provoking white paper, entitled “Why Parental Obligation,” offers an interesting pro-life perspective on parents’ responsibilities to prevent harm to their children, including, but not limited to, teenaged girls seeking an abortion. He states:
…[S]ome libertarians prefer to believe that either bringing a child into existence must be aggression, [t]he simple fact of having the power is not aggression. It’s how that power is exercised that determines whether aggression takes place.
I interpret this argument to mean that the female teenage minor who seeks to have an abortion is solely the responsibility of the parent(s) who raised her. Perhaps the fact is that the abortion that she is seeking is not necessarily her failure entirely, but rather, ultimately, the fault of the parents who raised her. So, why shouldn’t these parents be put on alert when their daughters choose to have an abortion?
In the context of this recent court decision, it is important to remember that the United States has the highest unintended pregnancy and abortion rates in the developed world. The cost of these “accidental” pregnancies to taxpayers was $11 billion dollars in 2008 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Unintended pregnancy rates like these affect everyone in the U.S., especially those of us who pay the taxes that fund the programs whose stated purpose is to prevent them.