Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Parental Rights

"Kids can't get their ears pierced without permission, but they can get abortions."

"Kids can't use tanning booths without permission, but they can get abortions."

These are two of the classic scenarios that get trotted out when parental consent/notification laws are on the table. It's ridiculous, say many completely reasonable, non-abusive, loving parents, that my child can consent to an operation without first obtaining my consent.

It's ridiculous, all right. It's ridiculous that your daughter conceived against her will in this age of a hundred contraceptive options. Where was your concern for her reproductive health then? It's ridiculous that although her status as a pregnant woman automatically emancipates her, and that she will be free to leave your home, cut off all contact with you, and start her own life with financial assistance from the government if she chooses to keep her baby, her choice to postpone parenthood, finish high school, and continue to be subject to your parental authority is one that you think you can make for her.

Seriously, what's the end game here? If you are a resident of one of the 33 states where your teenager must obtain your consent to have an abortion, what exactly are you going to do with that power? Will you refuse to give consent, thus ensuring that your daughter is instantly a legal adult? Will you attempt to imprison her during her pregnancy (and make no mistake, holding another adult against their will is a crime, albeit one that you're unlikely to be charged with if your victim is your pregnant teenager)? What about when the baby comes? Will you make her choices for her then? Will you coerce her into an adoption agreement? Will you raise the baby yourself? Or will you just rely on maternal instinct to do its job and make your daughter into the responsible parent that she felt herself unready to be?

Maybe those are extreme examples. Maybe you have every intention of allowing that abortion - after all, she's far too young to be a mother! and pregnancy is more dangerous than abortion! - and all you want is a chance to express your feelings of disappointment, anger and guilt. You want her to know how badly she's fucked up. You want to limit her freedoms in the future as a punishment for becoming pregnant. You want to destroy her relationship with the boy who got her in trouble. And mostly, you want to KNOW, forever, that this terrible thing happened. You want to look into the eyes of your grandchildren and mourn the one who never born. You want to own a piece of the worst thing that ever happened to your daughter.

I think a pregnant teenager has quite enough to deal with in the disappointment, anger, guilt and painful memories arena without having her lifelong relationship with her parents tossed into the mix. If sharing her ordeal with you will help her to cope, then share she will. But I invite you to think about the worst transgressions of your own young lives, and consider how humiliated you might have been to have them laid before your own parents. TO THIS DAY, there are probably things your folks don't know about because you fear that the knowledge would diminish you in their eyes.

In a perfect world, unplanned pregnancies wouldn't exist and girls would never be thrust into the role of women overnight. But since they bear that responsibility, they deserve the rights that come along with it. Unless you or your partner are the one who is pregnant, there is no pregnancy on earth where your where your opinion has any relevence. You aren't the one it's happening to, and you aren't the one who has to live with the consequences. So please, in the interest of your daughter's mental health and the health of your future relationship with her, back the fuck off.

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