an After abortion

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Monday, March 6, 2006

In the New York Times this morning: Scant Drop Seen in Abortion Rate if Parents are Told.

For all the passions they generate, laws that require minors to notify their parents or get permission to have an abortion do not appear to have produced the sharp drop in teenage abortion rates that some advocates hoped for, an analysis by The New York Times shows.

The analysis, which looked at six states that introduced parental involvement laws in the last decade and is believed to be the first study to include data from years after 1999, found instead a scattering of divergent trends.
The article goes on to review the date more closely from these six states. One state had a 9% drop in the year after parental notification passed, but it also had a 5% drop in the rate of abortions obtained by 18- and 19-year-olds, who did not have to seek parental consent. The reporters reason, therefore, that most of the 9% drop was due to whatever factors were bringing up the general drop in abortion rates.

Supporters of the laws say they promote better decision-making and reduce teenage abortions; opponents say they chip away at abortion rights and endanger young lives by exposing them to potentially violent reaction from some parents.

But some workers and doctors at abortion clinics said that the laws had little connection with the real lives of most teenagers, and that they more often saw parents pressing their daughters to have abortions than trying to stop them.
Of course on my end of things, I hear about parental coercion all the time. But by the time I'm in contact with someone, she's already had the abortion. The clinic workers who see this coercion happening under their nose are in a position to do something. But what do they do? I have never heard of a clinic worker attempting to intervene even in stories I'm told that involve egregious coercion at the clinic.

And many teenagers say they never considered hiding their pregnancies or abortion plans from their mothers.

"I would have told my mother anyway," said a 16-year-old named Nicole, who waited recently at a clinic in Allentown, Pa., a state that requires minors to get the permission of just one parent. Nicole's mother and father are divorced, and it was her mother she went to for permission to have an abortion.

"She was the first person I called," Nicole said. "She's like a best friend to me."
The psychological dynamics of having a close/best friend relationship with a mother who freely, even eagerly, supports your choice not to be a mother...oh, those crows come home to roost.

For Cathi Harrod, interim president of the Center for Arizona Policy, who lobbied for 15 years for her state's parental consent law, getting minors to involve their parents in their medical decisions was reason enough for the laws, whatever the impact on overall abortion rates. Arizona's law went into effect in 2003.

Ms. Harrod said she believed that there was a groundswell of women who have had regrets about their own abortions and that as they made their feelings known, "we think the numbers will go down as minors learn more about their options." Either way, she said, her organization will push for stricter standards and more public accountability for judicial bypass through access to judges' records.
Is this the first time the NYT has mentioned the groundswell of women who have had regrets about their own abortions?

But providers interviewed in 10 states with parental involvement laws all said that of the minors who came into their clinics, parents were more often the ones pushing for an abortion, even against the wishes of their daughters.

"I see far more parents trying to pressure their daughters to have one," said Jane Bovard, owner of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D., a state where a minor needs consent from both parents. "As a parent myself, I can understand. But I say to parents, 'You force her to have this abortion, and I can tell you that within the next six months she's going to be pregnant again.'"

Renee Chelian, director of Northland Family Planning Centers in the Detroit area, said she had had to call the police on parents who wanted their daughters to have abortions, "because they threaten physical violence on the kids."
If I were the reporter, I would have asked for details on this, and checked it out with the police department.

I give major props, though, to the two reporters of this piece, because they got a number of abortion clinics to tell them that parental coercion to abort is an issue. Indeed it is. And what are the clinics doing about it? What are the pro-choice advocacy organizations doing about it? Where online or offline can you find any material from those who provide abortions and support abortions about eliminating parentally coerced abortions?

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