Parental notification laws are laws that require that a teen’s parents be notified if they are considering an abortion; normally a teen can’t go ahead…

Parental notification laws are laws that require that a teen’s parents be notified if they are considering an abortion; normally a teen can’t go ahead with an abortion in a state that has parental notification laws without their parent’s consent. Abortion is a controversial issue itself, so it’s difficult to go into that topic without generating some sort of debate.   I think teens who are considering becoming sexually active should be aware of these laws because they might get into a lot of trouble if they become pregnant as sexually active teens. I realize that parents would want their children to tell them if they are pregnant, but it’s not realistic to assume that every teen who finds out they’re pregnant is going to want to disclose that information. If they live in a state where these laws are enforced, then at some point it’ll be difficult to continue hiding pregnancy (which I guess is one of the purposes of the law).   If a teen is aware of these laws, then it might encourage them to be more careful when engaged in sexual activity (unless of course, they’re intentionally trying to get pregnant, but that’s another issue). I don’t remember ever being told about these laws when I still had health/family planning class; teens in my state at least don’t seem to be aware of these laws.   – Allyson

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  • Christopher

    I think you’re overlooking something important here. Parental consent laws are not just (or perhaps even mostly) about the moral or ethical or family-dynamics issues involved in teen pregnancy. They’re certainly not there to scare teens into avoiding sex.

    You should remember that abortion is a medical procedure, a form of surgery, and it is NOT a trivial operation. It’s quite possible to do it badly and end up with a ruined uterus, infertile, or with life-threatening infections. The anesthesia required can go wrong, produce allergic reactions that can kill you.

    This is why any medical procedure — including abortion — requires informed consent. Someone has to be told all about the possible side-effects, has to give the patient’s medical history, and has to evaluate the provider to decide if he or she is the right one to do the job, and do it well.

    It can’t, generally, be the teen, because someone under the age of 18 can’t give legal consent and isn’t, generally, very good at evaluating the quality of medical care providers. So then what? Someone has to do it. Who’s the best choice? Who knows most about this particular patient? Who knows whether she had a horrible reaction to the anesthesia for a tonsillectomy when she was 2 years old? You know the answer.

    It’s also important to note that all parent-consent laws have carefully-defined methods for when a teen is reasonably unwilling to have her parents involved. Judges can make the decision instead, for example.

    So I think the most important idea here is not to force teens to talk to their parents, or threaten them with that, so they don’t have sex, but rather that some carefully thought-out procedure be laid down so that no one does surgery on a 15-year-old without someone responsible and older overseeing the process. It could be the parent — ideally it should be — but it could be a judge, too. The important point is it’s not the result of some random chaotic choice made at a time of great stress and limited information. Think of it as a type of fire-escape plan. You may not like the plan, of course — but that argues more for changing the plan then having no plan at all.

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