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Sask. Party candidates onside with international standards

As a teen, she's more likely to suffer emotional and psychological trauma after an abortion. She shouldn't have to make that choice alone.

Canada has no laws on abortion. This lack of regulation impacts both women and their pre-born children. It has an even greater impact on young women. So it is no surprise that when candidates for leader of the Saskatchewan Party were asked how they would respond to the introduction of a policy that would mandate parental involvement when a minor requests an abortion they answered in the affirmative.

Candidate Gord Wyant, who describes himself as “pro-choice” responded to Right Now’s question by saying, “I would be favorable to the introduction of a policy that mandates parental involvement when a minor requests an abortion, as long as it does not contravene our constitution or federal law.”

No court - at any level - has excluded the possibility of governments (provincial or federal) from regulating abortion. In fact, in the most famous case dealing with abortion, R. v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court was nearly emphatic that government had a duty to enact new laws that were both constitutional and protected the fetus at some point.

According to the Constitution Act (1867) there is a division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. Section 92(16) of the Act confers on Provincial Legislatures the power to make laws in relation to "all matters of merely local or private nature in the province." Similarly, paragraph 7 of that same section of the Act authorizes provinces to make laws in relation to "the establishment, maintenance, and management of hospitals, charities, etc." This specifically authorizes the provinces to establish and regulate hospitals, and to regulate hospital-based health care services.  

Parental consent for abortion legislation will not prevent women from requesting and receiving an abortion.  It will not stop abortion from occurring. It will not make abortion illegal. Rather, parental consent for abortion, drafted to withstand the test of constitutionality, will protect the health and welfare of minors, as well as foster family unity and protect the constitutional rights of parents to raise their children and be involved in the steps of that process.

In 2014 a public awareness campaign was launched with the goal of educating and equipping the people of Saskatchewan with the information necessary to build support for parental consent legislation. This has resulted in more than thirty thousand of pieces of communication sent to the Legislature in the form of postcards, petitions, phone calls, emails, and visits. Based on the answers by the four candidates who responded to Right Now’s survey it is clear that this has had an impact.

It is the view of tens of thousands of people that parental consent for abortion is a common sense piece of legislation that will protect vulnerable girls. Unfortunately many choice-focused individuals and organizations take a fundamentally flawed approach to the issue of parental consent for abortion. They frame the problem as, “Choice and bodily autonomy at all costs and anyone who opposes that opposes women’s rights.”  It is our submission that this “at all costs” approach harms the very women it sets out to protect when it is applied to adolescents making decisions on whether to continue a pregnancy. Not only are adolescents likely to make their pregnancy-related decisions in a state of stress, emotion, and exhaustion, they are also doing so with a less-developed prefrontal cortex than an adult, one of the key ways the brain doesn’t look like that of an adult until the early 20’s. Adolescent brains show marked differences in areas of impulse control and planning for the future, both critical to making an informed decision on parenthood, and capacities that are similarly unavailable in the peers they may turn to for help and advice.

In addition to the incomplete brain development of adolescents, there are marked hormonal shifts occurring in adolescence.  These shifts affect the intensity with which emotion is felt as well as stress levels. Add to that the hormonal shifts that come with pregnancy and you have a dangerous decision-making cocktail which, like many cocktails, will lead to regretted decisions.

Interestingly, the Canadian Medical Association code of ethics states that physicians must “balance the developing competency of minors and the role of families in medical decision-making”.  This balance does not suggest the family should be eliminated from consideration. Indeed, it recognizes that, while they should be heard and their participation encouraged, minors cannot always make medical decisions unassisted. Abortion is unique in that another life is involved besides that of the patient, deepening the impact of the decision.

Parental consentdoes not equal parental control - itis about responsibility and care. The term consent implicitly states that the decision belongs to the adolescent. Her parents can share their reasoning and attempt to influence her decision, but the main goal is to provide support for pregnant adolescents regardless of the outcome of their pregnancy.  Whether they choose abortion, adoption, or active motherhood, support is crucial to their success and well-being.  

It is our hope that the new Premier of Saskatchewan will recognize that a parental consent law makes it clear that the government supports young women as well as the lives they may carry, and that he or she will work to enhance their well-being now and across their lifespan.

Mike Schouten is a spokesperson for the grassroots effort to enact parental consent legislation in Saskatchewan. More information can be found at www.sk.parentalconsent.ca

Phone Premier Brad Wall

We want as many people as possible to place a phone call to the office of Premier Brad Wall and the Minister of Health Jim Reiter. They need to hear from you on this! This is a simple task. The numbers are on the image and here is a sample script:

 “Hi my name is Lois Graham. I live in Melfort and I am a member of the Saskatchewan Party (only state this if you are a card-carrying member). I am calling today to let the Premier/Minister of Health know that I support parental consent for abortion legislation and I would like him to work as quickly as possible to pass this law. It is not good that teenagers can get an abortion without their parents knowing about it. Please ask Premier Wall to show leadership by acting on this right away.”

Please note that very likely you will NOT be speaking to the Premier or Minister of Health but to a member of their office. If you get the answering machine please leave a message.

This is a very simple call to action. It shows that you care. And, it shows that you are willing to persevere with us. Will you?

Let's keep the momentum going!

It has been a busy and productive summer for the parental consent campaign! It is amazing to see the signatures on petitions piling up as one-on-one conversations make people aware of the need for a parental consent law. This summer, interns in bright green shirts talked to hundreds of Saskatchewan residents at their homes, on the streets, in parks, at public markets and fairs – wherever people could be found. In these conversations, 70% of the Saskatchewan residents we spoke with agreed that a parental consent law would benefit our province!  There is a growing awareness that such a law respects parental authority and the value of family, and also protects teenage girls from dealing with unplanned pregnancy alone.

While the majority of those spoken to agreed with the need for parental consent in this major medical decision for a minor, most knew nothing about it until we approached them. With only a handful of volunteers, then, only a fraction of potential supporters could be reached in the short time we had.  There remains a general unawareness of this issue, and as we head into fall it is a good time for us all to renew efforts to bring up this subject with friends, coworkers, and our local representatives.

Encourage those around you, including your MLA, to keep this on their hearts and minds, and continue the momentum we have built with the grassroots over the summer! Together we can bring in legislation that means no girl goes into an abortion without the knowledge of her parents and guardians. Through this, we hope to minimize those girls’ feeling that they are alone, unsupported, or desperate, with no other options. You can easily email your MLA from here, or copy and paste one of the letters into your own email before personalizing. Thank you for your continued work to make parental consent a standard part of abortion requests from minors in Saskatchewan!

American College of Pediatricians Lays Out a Clear Case for Parental Consent

The American College of Pediatricians has just updated their position paper on the importance of parental consent and involvement in a minor's decision to have an abortion. This document quickly and clearly covers all the important points for why parental consent for abortion is necessary: "As Ross proficiently states: “What are we teaching our adolescents when they find persons in authority willing to help them deceive their parents? What does it teach these adolescents with regard to the respect owed to any adult, least of all a deceitful doctor or a duped parent?” Intentionally removing a teen’s parent(s) from the decision-making process, misleads the teen toward the false notion that parents are nonessential, simply obstructive to the process, and that the teen is completely capable of making mature, wise decisions without the parent’s advice."

The College of Pediatricians makes it clear that the special treatment for this one controversial procedure needs to end: "For purposes of consent, however, abortion should be treated as any other medical or surgical procedure.   Medical care of children and adolescents uniformly requires written and verbal parental consent for any procedure – inside or outside of a medical office. For example, written parental consent is required for minor children to receive over-the-counter medications when in day care or at school.  This is because appropriate medical care can only be provided within the context of the patient’s family and medical history."

.Teen girl in hospital bed

In conclusion, they state, "Adolescents need the advice and involvement of their parents. As more is learned about the immaturity of the adolescent brain, especially in the development of the decision-making frontal lobes, it is obvious that parents should be allowed to guide their teens in all medical decisions, including decisions regarding pregnancy. Legislation mandating or encouraging parental involvement in decisions related to a minor’s pregnancy protects adolescents during a very vulnerable time in their lives. Society recognizes this need, and often requires and encourages parents to be a positive resource for their adolescents in matters of health, and other issues of consequence.  Therefore, excluding them from a minor’s decision about abortion cannot be justified."

You can read the full statement, with supporting sources, here.

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This public awareness campaign is a joint effort between Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association and WeNeedaLAW.ca. For more information please contact us here.

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