Parental guidance not always wise

So Senators Donny Olson and Ralph Samuels want a law requiring parental notification in cases of abortions requested by girls 16 years of age or younger. Specifically, they state, “We believe a law needs to be enacted that will protect the interest of parents, and also to ensure that teenage girls receive wise parental counsel and support at a time when it is most desperately needed.”

The problem, as I see it, is in the words “wise parental counsel”. While we might wish that all children in this state are being raised by parents who can offer that kind of counsel, the reality is that survey after survey produces statistics making it perfectly clear that is simply not true. If it were, we would not lead the nation in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Call me cynical but I don’t think drunker dad suddenly stops beating up mom to sit down at the family table and offer wise counsel to the teenage daughter witnessing the beating who has a hidden problem of her own. And while I understand that this same young girl may go to a judge and request permission to have an abortion without telling her parents, the reality is that the judge is a scary authority figure that she will probably avoid at all costs.

Better to tell her friends about her delimma and let them tell her about a person they know who will take care of the problem cheaply if she doesn’t mind back alleys, dirty tables and reused instruments with no recovery room available.

So I have to assume at this point that if Senators Olson and Samuels are this supportive of a bill forcing a young woman to consult a parent who may or may not be up to offering her wise counsel, they are also going to be as supportive and forceful in pushing through any legislation offered by Governor Parnell to address the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault in this state. And they will offer that same lever of forceful support to any funding needed to get those programs started.

Oh yeah, and we’ll need a lot more social workers and counselors so that any troubled teenage girl whose parents are less than ideal has someone to talk to who can guide her in her decision and help her face a judge. And, of course, we’ll also expect them to support any extra funding the judiciary might need to provide fairly instant hearings in these cases since time is sometimes of the essence in making the decision.

There is another thing, however, that bothers me about this bill and that is the lack of any statistical documentation showing that this law is addressing a real problem in this state. Exactly how many teens have actually had an abortion without parental involvement? How many of them came from violent, dysfunctional families where wise parental counsel is most obvious by its absence?

It’s one thing for fairly intact middle class parents to say they want to be part of any decision like this that their daughter might make. I’m willing to bet that statistical analysis would show those daughters are already going to their parents with their problem, painful though that might be. I’m also willing to bet that a statistical analysis would show that most of those who did have an abortion without parental involvement did so because they came from family in which parental guidance was neither wise nor sober.

So really, this law would mostly be a law aimed at a very specific segment of our society – a segment already hurt by dysfunctional and probably violent families.  In other words, this law would most impact those most helpless in our society who have no one else to turn to.

So if we really plan to put this law into effect, then I want to see these legislators put their money where their mouths are and propose bills to fund the tremendous need this state has for services to protect these vulnerable young ladies in our society. If they can’t or won’t do that, then they should get out of these girls’ personal lives and let them make the best decisions they can based on the best counsel they can find.