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Piercings and abortion: parental consent

"We're quite outraged that all of this happened -- and shocked it was that easy."

The above statement was said by a father in Winnipeg (read article here). Do you think he was talking about abortion? No, he was talking about a belly button piercing. This Winnipeg couple is angry that their 16 year old daughter was able to obtain a piercing without their consent and, we believe, rightly so.

The teenager's father goes on to say "We're not mad at our daughter. We trust and believe this was a 16-year-old who made a decision. We wanted to be there to help make that decision."

That is what parenting is about, it's about helping our children make decisions because they have been entrusted to our care and as parents or legal guardians, we have the responsibility to help them make decisions - whether about a body piercing, or a life-altering decision such as an abortion procedure. We believe that a parent is in the best position to support their child when facing an unplanned pregnancy and if children are having abortions and being counseled on how keep it a secret from their parents, how do we expect parents to carry out their responsibilities to love, nurture and protect their children? For more information about our Parental Consent campaign, currently running in Saskatchewan, please visit sk.parentalconsent.ca

Addressing the void surrounding Canadian abortion law

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and the NDP Status of Women critic Niki Ashton have, perhaps unintentionally, drawn much needed attention to the plight of unprotected fetuses in Canada in recent weeks. While it is unexpected to have two left-of-centre parties raise the always-sensitive topic of abortion, it is a conversation that needs to be had. And since Canada is only one of three countries in the world with no abortion laws whatsoever, our Parliament is one place in which this conversation really must be taking place.

While the debate continues in Ottawa and as Canadians contemplate federal abortion laws, there is also much needed dialogue at the provincial level. There are many provincial regulations that would address the void surrounding Canadian abortion law. The Constitution Act (1867) lays out the division of powers between federal and provincial governments. Section 92 (16) 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 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.

There is a lot of room for provincial legislatures to step up. For example, there are no laws stipulating that women seeking an abortion need to be properly informed on the physical and psychological risks accompanying abortion. Similarly, no health jurisdiction in our country has parental consent for abortion legislation.

A few weeks ago my sixteen-year-old daughter was asked to come in for a night shift at the retail outlet she works at. In order for her to do that, my wife and I had to give our written consent. We didn't have a problem with this – it provided a measure of respect for and deference to our parental responsibilities. In contrast, if our daughter found herself in an unplanned pregnancy, she could quite easily be pressured to think abortion was the only solution for her and to abort her pre-born child without our knowledge.

When I mentioned this to a friend in Saskatchewan she told me that her fifteen-year-old daughter, who has Type 1 Diabetes, wanted to get a tattoo. The medic alert bracelet she must wear was aggravating her allergies, and a permanent tattoo would reliably convey the same medical information. My friend explained that nearly every tattoo shop she went to refused to tattoo her daughter, even with parental permission, because in their words, "It's a permanent decision that we want to make sure your daughter won't regret."Note the stark contrast in how we treat our daughters when it comes to tattooing and employment standards compared to the current legal vacuum regarding abortion – a decision for which there is also permanent ramifications.

Young girls need the protection of caring parents or guardians. Without the involvement of parents it is easier for coercive boyfriends and child predators to use abortion to cover up criminal behaviour. A parental consent for abortion act would enshrine into law the rights and responsibilities of parents and would give much needed protection to vulnerable minors.

Is parental consent common sense?

A seventeen year old in Saskatchewan who wants to get married will need to have her parents sign a consent form in the presence of a Saskatchewan marriage licence issuer, clergy or any person authorized to take affidavits.

According to the Government of Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice website, if either party of the prospective marriage is under sixteen years of age, no licence will be issued and no marriage will be solemnized. This can only be overridden by a Provincial Court judge after an application to a courthouse in Saskatchewan.

This policy is unlikely to be challenged as it is understood that minors possess a lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility which can result in hasty and ill-considered actions and decisions. Most people will readily acknowledge that the character of a minor is not as well formed as that of an adult due to their personality traits being more transitory and less fixed.

While it seems pretty common sense to require parental consent for a minor to get married, the same cannot be said for a minor to get an abortion.

The same seventeen year old who can’t get married without her parent(s) consent could find herself in an unplanned pregnancy and be coerced into having an abortion with no knowledge of her parents.

This is tragic and needs to be addressed with a parental consent for abortion law.

Is Parental Consent Under Provincial Jurisdiction?

It is lamentable that most conversations even remotely connected to abortion or the rights of children before birth are dominated by rhetoric. This rhetoric is not limited to only community or media conversations, but regrettably even dominates the expressions of legislators. What we mean is this - often when there is public discussion  about Canada’s federal elected lawmakers legislating on - it is dismissed because it is deemed to be a provincial issue - as they say it deals with health care. Likewise, when it is discussed at the provincial level the desire often is to pass it off as a federal issue - because there is a criminal component - and thus it never is dealt with.

Fortunately, the Constitution Act (1867) lays out the division of powers between federal and provincial governments. Section 92 (16) 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 Constitution 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.

Read more: Is Parental Consent Under Provincial Jurisdiction?

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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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