Feature

Abortion

The politics of parental consent

Pro-choice advocates 'œare caught in a bind,' said Linda Feldmann in The Christian Science Monitor. The House of Representatives last week easily passed the starkly named 'œChild Interstate Abortion Notification Act'; if the Senate goes along, the law will impose new restrictions on minors' access to abortion. Yet because the bill 'œgoes right to the heart of parental rights,' even some steadfast pro-choicers aren't fighting it. The proposal makes it a federal crime for anyone other than a girl's parents to transport her across state lines for an abortion, if doing so bypasses her state's parental notification law. Supporters say the bill closes a loophole that has allowed thousands of border-crossing teens to evade parental notification laws in 32 states. U.S. Rep. William Clay of Missouri, one of the Democrats who reluctantly voted for the bill, said he had little choice. 'œIt's too difficult for me to explain to the average constituent,' said Clay, 'œwhy I voted against notifying a parent that a minor child is about to get an abortion.'

Right you are, said Kathleen Parker in the Orlando Sentinel. If there is anything both sides in the bitterly divisive abortion debate should agree on, this is it: 'œNo child should be operated on without a parent's consent'”no matter what the procedure.' What if parents are abusive, or a girl is pregnant because of incest? A 'œbypass' provision in the bill allows a girl to get a judge's approval to circumvent her parents and get an abortion in her own state. And let's not forget that abuse and incest are the exceptions, not the norm. 'œMost parents have their children's best interests at heart,' and they certainly deserve to know if their daughter is considering the 'œemotional, often life-altering process' called abortion.

Ellen Goodman

The Boston Globe

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