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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

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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