Thursday, January 11, 2007


Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I come, not to bury the decision, but to praise it.
I also come to mourn for the young women, those under the age of 18, who for whatever reason—fear, for example—cannot tell their parents that they need an abortion and thus suffer unreasonably.

Parental consent laws are a hot-button issue. Many, many on the left support abortion rights, and yet, when it comes to the fate of those under the age of 18, there seems to be a "NMD" (not my daughter) attitude that consumes them. They argue, and I know because I've argued against them, that no person under the age of 18 should be allowed to make their own medical decisions.

This is what I wrote a few months back:
I want to talk about parental consent laws, and why I have a problem with them. I'm not condemning anyone for feeling different than I do; I already know that there are people here, people I respect, who believe that parental consent laws are a good idea. So, I want to offer this in the spirit of discussion, and not in the spirit of rancor.
Communicating with your children about the intimate act of sex is not easy. Communicating with a teenager about anything is not easy. I'm not a perfect mom. I fuck up on a regular basis, and I've learned to say "I'm sorry" to my children for particularly egregious fuckups because it's important to me that they know that I'm aware of my limitations. Which I think gives them room to know about their limitations.
My children talk to me. Because I believe in their right to privacy, I cannot tell you the things they have brought to me as issues, but needless to say, I've dealt with things that are relevant to this discussion.
I know that being a parent is terrifying. I make the assumption that parents love their children and want what's best for them, while I also acknowledge that such is not always the case.
New York is not a parental consent state. I'm glad of that. Even as I hope that if either of my children were faced with the kind of decision that abortion is, they would talk to me about what they want and need to do.
These days, when I take my eldest to the doctor's office, she goes in alone. She has private conversations with the doctor, and unless she gives the doctor permission, I learn nothing about what happened within those walls. I'm okay with that, because it's crucial to me that my daughter understand that what she says to her doctor is private, confidential, sacrosanct. That's the way it's supposed to be.
As it turns out, she usually chooses to tell me what's going on. I take her to the doctor already knowing what the issue is. But I don't pretend that there may not be things I don't know about.
The other thing that has helped tremendously in the raising of my daughters has been the notion of a "pod." My daughters are surrounded by other people who love them. There have been instances where my eldest daughter has confided something to a friend's mom, or to one of my friends, sometimes with the instruction that said confidante should approach me with the issue my daughter suddenly feels shy about discussing. And sometimes, she just talks to another adult female because that's what she wants and needs.
I'm okay with that. I wish that other people were okay with that. i wish that adults could allow their teenagers to grow and develop into young adults, instead of treating them as extensions of themselves to be disciplined, broken, bent to a higher will.
Parental notification laws, to me, are a blaring neon sign that proclaims that people are afraid to trust their children. And I don't have naive beliefs that teenagers don't fuck up on a regular basis. But that is part of their humanness. And if I am going to maintain my commitment to the humanity of others, I have to extend that to my children. My children are not me. I gave birth to them, and I am here to love and nurture and protect them, but I do not own them. The line between "doing something to protect teens" and "declaring your ownership of teens' is thin, but I cling to that line, and trust that it will hold.

Many people whom I have a great deal of respect for, disagreed with me on this one. Alas, I have learned that ultimately, it's best not to get into any kind of discussion about raising one's children. We all have our ways. We all think we're right. And ultimately, I believe, we are all doing the best that we can.

But still, I look at this map and I wonder what it's like to be in a state that is not shaded "white" on this map.

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