The subject of Parental Notification and Parental Consent laws came up on the sadly defunct Bobvis blog. I don’t want to get into the wisdom of such laws in this post, but for context purposes let me just say that I am conflicted on the matter.

As readers of Hit Coffee know, I am morally uncomfortable with the vast majority of abortions performed. It’s not my desire to defend that position here, but it’s important to note that for the sake of this post. This isn’t about what the law should be (either in regards to abortion or more specifically parental notification/consent laws), rather how I approach the issue morally and more importantly how I would respond should I have a daughter that becomes pregnant. If you think I am wrong to be morally uncomfortable with it, please don’t waste your time or mine trying to convince me that I am wrong in this venue just as I will not try to convince you that you are wrong. It’s a value judgment.

In the comment section of the Bobvis post, I said:

As a future parent, I would of course prefer that any daughter (or son, of course) not engage in risky sexual behavior. However, even independent of that I would not want my daughter having an abortion simply to cover up the fact that she had done so. I’m conflicted on parental notification laws, but I don’t think that it’s entirely based on the motives {of wanting to control my daughter’s sexual behavior}.

The thing is, if I had a daughter that was pregnant and intended to have an abortion, I don’t think that I would want to be notified. A part of me thinks that if I could convince her not to, I would want that opportunity. I would want to be able to tell her that we would work with her so that she could go to college and establish herself. We’d (informally or formally) adopt the kid as our own if that would change her mind or help her place the child for adoption with an agency. I would want her to know that while I may be disappointed in what led up to the pregnancy that I understand that things happen and how we respond to the consequences of our mistakes says as much about us as the mistakes themselves.

The other part of me, however, fears that it would tear our family apart if she declined to go along. If the law were notification, it would be excruciating to try to talk her into having the baby and not being able to do so. She would know how vehemently I disapprove of her decision and I would know that she did something that I have strong moral objections to. It gets more difficult with parental consent laws because I would have a lot of difficulty consenting to it. If her mental health were obviously on the line, I would probably not drag her to court over the issue and so would consent. But such things are extremely difficult to judge. She may overestimate the mental health effects of having the baby or I might underestimate it. If I did not provide consent and she got a judicial bypass (most of which are granted, from what I understand), it could cause a permanent cut that’s never entirely sewn up.

In this case, I have to wonder if ignorance is bliss. If I found out five years later that she’d had an abortion five years before, I think that it might be easier for me to handle. This is perhaps a very selfish approach if it relies too much on the notion of how clean or dirty my hands are, though also a factor (I’d like to think a bigger one) would be that five years down the line she would be a different person and it would all be in the past. It’s sort of analogous to the fact that I hate losing in sports and games a lot more than I mind having lost. I can deal with bad things having happened than watching them unfold right before me.

It’s only somewhat likely that I would be a part of this decision anyway. Our daughter would have two parents. She will know what my views are on abortion and though my wife’s views are almost the same, I still suspect that it would be easier for her to talk to her mother than me. I’m tempted to tell Clancy that should the day ever come when our daughter comes to her seeking help with an abortion that she not even tell me about it until it’s all in the past (if then). I’m not sold on the idea because I feel that’s unfairly placing too much burden on her, letting her deal with the muck so that I can steer my conscience clear of the tough decisions that she had to make.

Statistically, our daughter is not likely to get pregnant in any event. We will promote safe sex, for one thing, and she will get the lecture well before its time. We don’t intend to make discussions of sex too taboo, though obviously we will not want any salacious details. It’s also the case that neither Clancy nor I are particularly sexually adventurous. Promiscuity doesn’t run deeply in either of our families. It’s not in our nature. Neither, for that matter, is having access to a lot of sexual partners. The biggest threat would likely be a long-term relationship like the one that I had with Julie wherein contraception is not applied consistently or it fails when applied as it sometimes does. But risks are risks and it’s not at all unforseeable that the above won’t be an issue. If we do have a child that does become pregnant, they are probably more likely to be of the “pro-choice” mindset than the “pro-life” one regardless of the ideals that we profess to. I’m not sure about Clancy, but I was myself pretty strongly pro-choice when I was young. They will likely be college-minded and at least somewhat career-minded (they will have their mother to look up to, after all). So if a pregnancy does occur, we are more likely than the average family to have a lot of conflict over it.

In any event, I really hope that it never does come up. Failing that, at least a part of me hopes that I don’t know about it until it’s old news.

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4 Responses to Undesired Notification

  1. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    I agree with your assessment that finding out one’s daughter has had the abortion several years after it happened is probably the least bad way to go. As with so many other tough questions, a least bad analysis is probably the best way to proceed; there are no good scenarios in which the issue of parental notification would even come up.

  2. trumwill says:

    I think that it depends on some degree by what one considers less bad. If one considers the possibility strained familial relations to be worse than whatever gap is between the number of abortions that would occur without parental notification to the ones that would occur with, then Parental Notification is a no-go. If one considers the gap in the number of abortions to be worse, then support for Parental Notification makes more sense. A lot of this, of course, depends on how often and how thoroughly strained familial relations are and how big the gap is in the number of abortions.

    To me, the “least bad scenario” is that she tells us she’s pregnant and we work together to keep the baby. On the other hand, the “least bad scenario” if we stipulate that she will have an abortion may well be for me not to know until after-the-fact.

    On a sidenote, terms such as “anti-choice” and “pro-abortion” are banned from this comment section. I meant to mention that in the original post, but wanted to before anybody used them (which thus far nobody has). Respect for differing points of view is crucial and attempts to pursuade people to change their view on this very complex issue in this comment section are (a) likely futile and (b) strongly discouraged.

    -{This comment was heavily modified by the author to avoid getting into too in-depth a discussion about abortion law}-

  3. Webmaster says:

    A lot of the question depends on the personalities involved, I think.

    If you’ve got “relatively understanding” parents, the hurt of the daughter not trusting them enough to include them in the decision (whichever way it went) may be worse. If you’ve got tyrant-types, including them may encourage a wrong decision.

    If you have serious preexisting relationship issues between daughter and parents, all bets are off.

    With that being said, at least as far as underage kids are concerned, I think abortion should be treated like any other medical procedure. If the kid has to have parental permission (barring “emergency lifesaving measures”) for any other equally invasive procedure, then the parents would seemingly need to sign off on an abortion.

    And of course, IF the kid has good-faith reason to believe parents shouldn’t be notified for fear/abuse reasons, then that’s where the legal system needs to get involved and, if necessary, appoint a guardian of legal age to advise and sign off on necessary paperwork.

  4. Becky says:

    I honestly don’t even know if I’ll have kids, but if I did, then I think I’d want to know and support her for it. But, I think maybe it’s a woman-to-woman thing, I don’t know if I’d have the same opinion if I were a man.

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