The Problem with Parental Consent Laws

                Parental Consent and Notification laws are a bit of sensitive topic. On the surface they seem well intentioned and in fact in the best interest of the teen. We all want to believe in the ideal family; that parents will always, without question, help and support their children to the best of their abilities. We want to believe that parents will always do what is best for their child. In many, even most, cases of teen pregnancy this ideal is true. Yes, parents may be disappointed in their child upon finding out about an unwanted pregnancy. They may be surprised and sad, but they will still help the teen obtain an abortion if that is their decision.

                There is a fallacy in anti-choice ideology that if left to their own devices, pregnant teens would never tell their parents about an unintended pregnancy and subsequent abortion. This is simply not true, even in states without any parental consent or notification laws, the majority of pregnant teens DO tell their parents. Teens who don’t tell their parents usually have solid reasons for not telling them such as fear of being kicked out of their home, fear of physical abuse, or in cases of incest the parent might be the parent of the fetus and the teen fears further assaults.

                Requiring parental consent or notification laws put teens in less than ideal home situations at needless risk and are beyond unfair. Many would argue that cases such as these extremes are exactly why these laws usually include a judicial bypass option.  Again, in an ideal world would be true. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, judicial bypasses just aren’t a realistic solution.

                An article at Alas, a Blog details exactly why judicial bypasses don’t work. Judges are afraid to give them for fear they won’t be re-elected or they are anti-choice and don’t think people should be having an abortion at all. The article even shows how judicial bypasses are impractical even in cases where one of two parents has already given consent; it’s a very interesting read so check it out. A real world example of this comes from a teen in Pennsylvania who sought a judicial bypass because she was afraid her mother would kick her out if she knew about the pregnancy.

                In her case, she was 3 months away from turning 18, had average grades and planned on going to college to pursue a law career. The judge assigned to her case decided to let a personal bias cloud their judgment by refusing the bypass on the grounds that she was too immature for an abortion because she didn’t want to risk losing her home by telling her mother. This case went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who overturned the decision because the judge was wrong to decline her bypass. The option of a judicial bypass exists for precisely the reason the girl sought it, she was afraid to tell her mother. The purpose of the law cannot be used to justify denying access to the law… it’s just ridiculous.

                So yes, I get it. Parental consent and notification laws seem to be in the best interest of teens, but in reality they just make life harder for teens that don’t have the ideal parents. That is why I am so disheartened to see that a parental notification law in Illinois is going to the State Supreme Court to determine if the state will begin to enforce it and for the fourth time, there is a push to get a notification law on the ballot in California. These efforts only hurt teens.


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