Parental notification laws for young women and girls seeking abortions are a crappy idea. Most states have them by now, but that still doesn’t make them smart.
As a mother, I know that if I want my kids to come to me with serious problems someday, I have to build a foundation of trust. If either of my boys ever got a girl pregnant, they’d need to know that they could come to me for advice and counsel. They’d need to feel enough love and respect that they could trust me to support them. And so my job of establishing that trust starts now, while they’re still little kids.
Because you can’t legislate love, trust, and respect. You’ve gotta earn it.
Realistically, though, some families are just dysfunctional. Sometimes a pregnancy is a result of incest. Sometimes a girl fears being thrown out of the house, or beaten, or belittled. In those cases, parental notification laws don’t repair anything; they just make a pregnant girl’s life much more difficult. And if we’re stuck with those laws, then judicial overrides are indispensable.
In Ohio, pregnant teenagers under 18 do have the option of taking their case to a judge – but as yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch reports, it matters crucially which judge hears your case:
The bypass hearing is “not something a lot of people know about, I admit,” Judge Dana Suzanne Preisse said.
“The average age is 16 or 17, and some are weeks from their 18th birthday. They have to prove to the court they are emotionally mature and intelligent enough to make this decision on their own.”
After 18, parental consent is not needed for an abortion.
Judge Kim Browne said she spends 20 minutes with each teen and her attorney.
“I don’t think I’m playing God at all,” said Browne, who has never denied a request. “That is their choice. That’s the decision they are going to have to live with. …
Judges don’t ask for the teens’ names or schools, or who the father is. Sometimes, a clean driving record and good grades are enough to convince a judge of “sufficient maturity,” the key phrase in the Ohio Revised Code. …
Some former judges, including Carole Squire and the late George W. Twyford, usually denied the requests on moral grounds, court officials said.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a family court judge to flagrantly disregard the parents’ authority,” Squire, a Domestic Relations judge from 2000 to 2006, said last week.
“I don’t believe (judges) are applying the law correctly. Good grades in school is not dispositive of being sufficiently mature.”
As her conservative stance became known, fewer bypass hearings came her way, she said. …
Preisse has denied only one request, she said.
“I feel I’m elected by the people to follow the statute,” even if it goes against her own moral standards.
(Source: Columbus Dispatch)
I don’t know where “playing God” enters into this. Why is that even part of the discussion? Why does a judge – even a liberal judge – feel compelled to defend herself against this potential charge? This is a human decision, affecting human lives.
Why does a judge feel she needs to make clear that she herself is more moral than the girls over whose fate she presides? Even though she has only turned down one case, why does she presume that her personal anti-abortion stance is more moral than the decisions these girls have made?
It’s also misleading to couch this decision in terms of parental authority. If no action is taken, these girls will become parents themselves! How can a judge deem a girl too immature to make the abortion decision – but then lock her into a parental role, which will demand far more maturity from her?
And how does a scared sixteen-year-old figure out in advance which judge will give her a fair hearing, and which one will dismiss her case out of hand?
Lots of questions, no good answers – all spawned by legislation that’s basically misguided from the get-go.