I saw a thing on Stuff today – a petition calling for parents to be notified when someone under 16 has an abortion.
Oh man I feel so strongly about this issue.
So strongly that I struggle to actually articulate an argument about it.
I don’t know why I feel so strongly, it’s not a personal issue for me. At 15 I was still years away from having sex. And my parents and I have a pretty top-notch relationship. And I’ve never had an abortion. So far as I know, all the people I know who’ve had abortions were over 16. Yet I find myself feeling a sort of seized up choking when I see the arguments that play out on this issue. The underlying assumptions chill me. Like an abortion is a big deal but pregnancy and childbirth and parenting aren’t. Like a 15 year old cannot be trusted to make decisions for herself – not just the substantive decision whether to have an abortion, but the decision about who she looks to for support. Like the default is to trust the parents over the teenager. And once we start going down that path, maybe the default is to trust some other source of authority over the adult woman?
Is it absolutely awful that 15 year olds (and younger) get pregnant? OF COURSE. Does it absolutely suck that some pregnant teenagers don’t feel confident that their parents will help them to deal with this inherently difficult life event? OF COURSE. Does telling the parents against the wishes of the pregnant kid do anything to help anyone? No, I can’t see how it would. Best case scenario, the kid is wrong and her parents are actually really a great source of support. More likely scenario, the kid has to deal with a) being pregnant, b) how to respond to the pregnancy, and now also c) the emotional fallout with her parents, and possibly d) the risk that her parents will try and prevent her accessing an abortion when this is what she has decided is best for her, and maybe also e) the risk that her parents will cut her off from other sources of support.
Why would we heap c) and d) and e) on top of the already pretty hefty a) and b)?!