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Video: She shouldn't have to make that choice alone

In Saskatchewan a teenager who becomes unexpectedly pregnant can receive an abortion without any knowledge of her parents. She shouldn't have to make that choice alone.

Who Should Consent to a Minor's Abortion?

Parental consent for abortion is not mandatory for minors in Saskatchewan. Teen girls can have an abortion performed without notifying anyone, and they are then left alone to deal with the physical and emotional consequences.  One common argument that prevents society from improving care for pregnant teens is that no one should be able to consent, or withhold consent, on someone else's behalf. Whether the woman in question is 33 or 13, the "her body, her choice" rhetoric is alive and well.

It is important to consider what this argument says in relation to minors. "Her choice" may sound supportive, but is it really? Does a young teen want to be left to make such a choice alone? Would she choose to carry such a secret, choose to have no one to turn to for support? Would her choice really be a choice if she felt there was only one option?  

Person, shown from waste to mid calf, sitting on exam table wearing a hospital gown.

We all want what is in a minors' best interests. Yet some argue a parent or guardian should not be involved when their daughter has an unplanned pregnancy. Why is it, at a time when a young teen has to make an irreversible decision, we think that anyone but the parents should be deciding what is in her best interests?  Who, if not parents or guardians, can genuinely protect the best interests of our children?  Doctors? Governments or courts? The teens themselves?  

Doctors are well educated in the physical realities of abortion. In this way, they are well-positioned to inform girls about the procedure, as well as other options. They are not, however, in a position to offer counselling and emotional support to anxious girls, nor should we ask them to be. The reality is, for a teen in a vulnerable position, doctors can be intimidating and their opinions overwhelming. 

Perhaps the government could objectively determine the benefits of an abortion for a particular individual.  Even in the unlikely event that they could, this would take away a long-recognized legal right to parental authority. Parents would be deemed secondary authorities, while the government usurped their responsibility.  If this was acceptable when deciding who should have an abortion, why not in deciding who should be allowed to have kids at all? Why not in deciding where your children should be educated? State control over the nation's children can never be the answer. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what about the teen herself? Many teens are as mature emotionally as they are physically. Should these young women not have a voice? Indeed, they should. However, their voice should not be the only one they hear. Science is clear that the teenage brain is still developing, particularly the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain which allows for future planning and decision-making. The adult brain has a deeper capacity for this kind of thought, making adults a better choice than peers when grappling with such an impactful decision as abortion.  In addition, adults can offer resources. These resources are not only financial, but also resources such as a drivers' license and vehicle to get to doctors' appointments, time they are willing to give to babysit a child that could be born, support they are willing to give to their new grandchild, and access to follow-up care post-abortion or post-partum. A parental consent law recognizes the value of adult support and involvement in a teen's pregnancy, as well as recognizing parental authority and responsibility. 

Parents and guardians, then, are really the only option when it comes to consent for minors to have an abortion, just as parents are the ones who need to consent to a teen getting a tattoo, using a tanning salon, or even going on a field trip from school.

What about parents who are incapable of making good decisions, or whose relationship with their children is strained, or worse, abusive? This is a legitimate concern when requiring parental consent. But does that mean we should strip all parents of their rights for the sake of those few who may be inept? Certainly not. What it means is that we build safeguards into the law, where teens have the option of bypassing parental consent with good reason. In these cases, be it of abuse, incest, or fear of reprisal, we can allow doctors, government, or courts to step in and assist an adolescent in making a good medical decision.  Parental consent should be the standard to which exceptions are made, not the exception itself. 

Would Parental Consent Expand the Evil of Abortion?

As the parental consent for abortion campaign gains momentum there are questions that arise from time to time. Recently we received the following question:

“How can we enact the legislation that would enable parents to stop their daughters from having an abortion, without risking that parents would force their prolife daughters to have an abortion against their will?”

The question is a good one and it is important that we ensure any legislation we advocate for would not expand the evil of abortion. We are confident that if Saskatchewan passed a parental consent for abortion law it would be more difficult for parents to force their children to have an abortion. 

The reason we believe this is because currently, without any laws regulating abortion - especially regarding minors - parents are already able to force their daughters into having an abortion. The draft parental consent law we are working with has an entire section dedicated to prohibiting coercion. Allow me to quote it in full:

"A parent, guardian or any other person shall not coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion performed. If a pregnant woman is denied financial support by the pregnant woman's parents or legal guardian due to the pregnant woman's refusal to have an abortion performed, the pregnant woman shall be deem emancipated for the purposes of eligibility for the public-assistance benefits, except that such benefits may not be used to obtain an abortion."

A parental consent law, as we are proposing, would actually make it more difficult for parents to force their daughter to have an abortion. To be clear, the status quo already allows parents to force their daughters to have an abortion. A parental consent law does not increase the legality of this, but rather decreases it by adding coercion protection. 

Further to this, we are also excited about the possibility of parental consent legislation because it will save the lives of pre-born children. When we observe what has occurred in other jurisdictions that have passed this law we see that the number of abortions among minors has decreased substantially. For example, in Texas the rates dropped by up to 20% in the years following the enactment of a parental consent law in that state. 

We learn from the Scriptures that the role of politics is to restrict evil. The reality is that a parental consent law will not eradicate abortion among minors in Saskatchewan. That said, if such a bill were proposed in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, it would offer regulations on abortion and clearly take us in a direction towards limiting evil, and away from its expansion. As we often say, progressive improvement is better than deferred protection.

Parental Consent For Abortion Should Be On Every Parents' Agenda

A story out of New Zealand recently told of a school nurse booking a student for an abortion, driving her there during school hours, bringing her home late, and lying about why they were late.  Weeks later, as the girl deteriorated emotionally and physically, it came out that she had received an abortion that day. The surgery damaged her uterus and she will now never be able to have a baby.

Any parent reading this story can relate to the outrage of a mother having a school employee go behind her back to encourage her 15-year-old daughter to get life-changing surgery in secret.  As it turns out, the school did not have to notify the parents because New Zealand has no requirement of parental consent for a minor to have an abortion. The school nurse could legally leave a mother wondering where on earth her teenage daughter was when she didn’t come off the school bus in the afternoon.

The fact that underage girls in Canada can get an abortion without parental consent or notification means stories like this can happen here too. Supporters of secret underage abortions argue points like access to health care, doctor-patient confidentiality, and negative family relationships.  But what it really comes down to is a lack of respect for parental authority. Parents are no longer trusted to have the best interests of their children in mind.

Parents need to stand up for their right to protect and guide their children. No one should encourage your children to make major life decisions in isolation, or counsel them to hide things from you.

WeNeedaLAW.ca and the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association are lobbying for a parental consent for abortion law in Saskatchewan, a law that should be in place in every Canadian province. This campaign, sk.parentalconsent.ca, received a legal opinion on parental consent that makes it even clearer that the best interests of children are in no way served, or enhanced, by undermining parental authority and responsibility.

One of the key findings of from our legal opinion is that parents are ultimately responsible for the care and guidance of their children. Under the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, parents have primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their children, with the best interests of the child being their primary concern. Article 18 indicates that this “best interests” measure includes taking into account a child’s maturity and capacity for decision-making; it does not, however, preclude parental involvement with more mature minors.

Another of the key findings is that medical codes of ethics should not be considered satisfactory on the issue of abortion. These codes should follow statutory guidelines, not the other way around. Allowing the medical profession to make its own rules is an example of a weak or lazy government unwilling to do its Parliamentary duty.

Parents are involved in virtually all other medical decisions, and may have valuable information about a child’s medical history as well as family medical history. Doctors, school nurses, or private abortion clinic employees should not play counselor and parent to teens in crisis.

The fact that a school needs permission to take your child on a field trip, but not for surgery, is beyond ridiculous. That same teen needs parental consent before getting a tattoo or using a tanning salon, and needs official consent before being legally allowed to drink, smoke, or drive a car. Has abortion really become such a taboo subject that we are willing to just ignore all legal oversights rather than face the wrath of abortion advocates?

Undermining parental authority undermines the best interests of children and tells parents they don’t need to be involved in their children’s lives. If someone else can take my child for surgery and I only find out about it later, they can expect to hear from me. I expect they’d hear from you too.

This article is also published on LifeNews.com

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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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