Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Well, I did say I had another post an abortion coming up. I'm just fisking an editorial I read a couple weeks ago about a parental notification bill that was being debated. I don't mean to be too condemning of the editorial as an editorial; it's not like the person was writing a feature article for The Economist, but for an article that's supposed to be factual in a periodical that's not supposed to be yellow, it would be nice if the writer had not tried so hard to cover every point that none of them ended up getting adequately supported.

Well, it makes my job easier (and hopefully their faulty rhetoric more transparent to everyone), but for the sake of journalism, I mean, it would be good for would-be journalists to learn to value of scope.

I'm omitting identifying details, not so much to protect the actors in this drama as to emphasize the universality of the debate.

The writer starts by saying "Last week, under pressure from active conservative organizations, the [state] Supreme Court announced it would strip young women of their reproductive rights. Well, they didn't quite say that...." Of course they didn't, because it's not true. The matter is whether a law requiring parents to be notified before their children can get abortions.

It's not about women, and it's not about rights; girls don't have the right to engage in statutory rape any more than they have a right to drive or a right to vote.

You might have noticed I'm begging a question. I trust you'll indulge me long enough to answer the question, too, especially since the writer begged it first.

Some legal experts have criticized the law because of how poorly it has been enforced, how difficult it has been for pregnant girls to find a court that will let them file a request to circumvent notification, let alone a judge who would grant it. I'll agree that the law is the law; if we accept parental notification as a compromise between unrestricted abortion and a total ban, at least for the time being, then we're obligated to work within the law. However, short of dereliction of duty, a judge should be permitted the same freedom of conscience as, say, a pharmacist.

Certainly, the improper enforcement of a law may be a valid reason to rescind it, like the Separate but Equal doctrine (which was wrong anyway, but SbE was overturned on the grounds that Separate was never Equal in practice, and I couldn't think of a better example). Is the damage done by giving a pass to men with a taste for the childlike really less, though, than the political "violence" done by not letting schoolgirls sleep with college students or graduates?

It is also said that parental notification laws tend to help least the girls who need the law the most. Why, then, doesn't Planned Parenthood step up to the plate and shave off a few of the quarter billion dollars they get from the government, in addition to donations and service fees, for some pro bono guidance through the legal system? I'm sure plenty of affluent pro-choicers would be more than willing to help defray the legal costs for this for-profit charity. If a female is mature enough to deal with sex intelligently, shouldn't she also be mature enough to approach the legal system with some intelligence?

Ah, but who is really benefiting from the parental notification laws? It's touted as being motivated by concern for women's well being, but isn't it more about preventing abortions? Okay, yes, it is; we believe that abortions are terrible, and that by any standard (permissive or otherwise--safe, legal, and rare, remember), abortion is chosen far more often than it ought to be. What I'd like to know is what masked agenda is behind requiring or allowing parental notification for, well, every other non-emergency medical situation, even as trivial as school nurses handing out OTC painkillers, but not for something that can end up being major, elective surgery. Okay, kids can get prescriptions in some states, and condoms (not that they're a drug), and STD testing, but I won't let anyone use them as a counterargument until they can show STD testing and free condoms are not tautologous to the abortion access question.

Oh, I see: it's the girls "whose families would kick them out of the household for an attempt at controlling the fate of their own bodies." Wait, maybe I don't see. Underage sex, especially promiscuous sex, is about control? Are we talking about abortion as a means of control, or is choosing to give in to your new, erotic impulses supposed to be the act of self-control? I thought sex was about love, or at least pleasure; if it's about power, then all it seems to add up to is plain old rape.

In many states, such as where the writer resides, the age of consent is 17, not 18. Is it this age that is everyone's concern? Am I to believe that they would really be happy if consent were raised to 18, so only high school seniors would get some leeway if their greatest mistake was having an overly seductive boyfriend? Probably not; the real concern is not girls who have an accident on prom night, but girls who usually get described in these debates by the pro-choicers as "14 year old women."

I'm sorry, but a 14 year old female is a girl, not a woman; I don't care if she's physically capable of motherhood. Some societies marry off their girls at that age, and it's a pretty stable arrangement, but I don't believe it's an optimal arrangement, and adults are not merely children who have sex, any more than children are just really short adults. Simply throwing sexual activity into the mix isn't treating schoolgirls like women; treating schoolgirls like schoolgirls but accelerating them to the threshold of adult relationships does not make them more mature; and without maturity, liberation, especially in intimate matters, is really misplaced. Shall we also throw off the shackles of kitchen safety and let a toddler feel his own way through the forest of hot stoves and pots of boiling water?

The writer finishes with "...the fact is that most Americans have a much more complex view of abortion than simply allowing or disallowing it." Too true. Most Americans actually believe that abortion should be restricted or prohibited under most circumstances, not generally available with a few particular restrictions (and if going behind parents' backs shouldn't be one, I can't imagine any others that would be much more plausible).

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