The real issues behind the parental consent debate

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Trigger warning – child abuse.

A potential new Bill brought to Parliament by National MP Chester Borrows is threatening to worsen our already woeful record on abortion legislation. It would mean that no young person could obtain a termination without parental consent. Public opinion is pretty split, and I can understand why. But I can’t emphasise enough why this is a backwards, dangerous idea.

I’m not going to trivialise any of the angles to this issue, because it’s a really complex and emotional situation to talk about. I totally get and agree that it is innate correct and good parental instinct to want to know – heck – feel like we NEED to know – if our child is going through this situation. But what we must keep at the forefront of our minds is that the reasons a teenager would seek an abortion are so myriad and so loaded that a blanket rule trivialises, disadvantages and endangers teenagers to an unacceptable level. We must pull our instinct back and give ourselves the mental space to think about this issue from other perspectives. I know it’s hard. But we must.

How we feel about the issue of young people accessing abortion services depends on our own childhood, ideology and experiences raising our own children. I have children/stepchildren, aged 12-21. I admit that of course I would prefer that if they chose to have an abortion, or their girlfriend did, that they would feel comfortable in telling one or more of us what was going on. Don’t we all? I know I would feel gutted. I would question my parenting. I’d go and have a bloody good cry. But then I would get over myself. Because I know that my children are not me – they are themselves. They have their own realities, their own minds, and their own reasons, which would probably in no way be related to anything I had done, or not done as a parent.

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That’s a really important thing all parents, including me, need to realise and/or remember. This does not equal failure as a parent if you have a healthy relationship with your kids. I suspect that this feeling greatly contributes to the people supporting this move. It’s an almost involuntary emotional response of ‘if my daughter didn’t tell me, what does that say about me as a parent?’ deflected onto schools, youth support staff, sexual health clinics and politicians.

I’ve read and listened to a lot of opinions from people who work with youth, as well as personal stories from women who had abortions when they were younger about this issue. They all fit into two themes, which are both equally valid.

The first is this: That many young women who have abortions and don’t tell their parents don’t keep it secret because their parents are doing something wrong. They describe their parents as loving, caring, understanding, communicative and forgiving. But they still chose not to tell them at the time. Reasons for this include having a fiercely independent or private personality, a sense of certainty about their decision, respecting their parents so much they don’t want to disappoint them, feeling that they couldn’t handle further pressure on their decision, fear that the father’s family or others she does not want to find out will be told, being in an abusive relationship, rape, and many more reasons across that spectrum.

Women described their parents as the most amazing parents they could have ever asked for, and still, for their own reasons, did not want to tell them. And I think that while it’s not what I would want to happen with my children, that this choice should remain legal. We’re not talking about something that is situational and repairable with admission, counselling (note that under our legislation, counselling is mandatory, and counsellors do urge teens to consider informing their parents in non-violent & non-coercive circumstances), and time.

We’re talking about bodily integrity and a full time commitment of a lifetime. A parent’s opinion does not necessarily relieve the weight of this decision. For me, this is ethically up there with a 15 year old with a terminal illness not being allowed to have any final say on whether to continue debilitating treatment instead of palliative care. As much as I would want to do everything to keep my son alive in this situation, if he had had enough, I would not force him to continue. Nor should we have the right to force our children to continue a pregnancy, give birth and be a parent.

The second theme is the overt danger caused to young women whose parents or caregivers psychologically, physically and sexually abuse them, or are complicit in their abuse. Sexual & family violence in NZ is endemic and still rising. Conservative figures even Family First will agree to are 1 in 4 for family violence and 1 in 8-10 for sexual violence (I believe 1-4 sexually assaulted personally). We also have high numbers of migrant families from countries where un-wed pregnancy is the ultimate sin against the family and is punished severely.

I come from a Pakeha fundamentalist home-schooling family. From a young age I understood that the (man) I wed had to be in the same church as I and prove his commitment to (their version of) God to my parents. Before engagement dates were chaperone only, no pre-marital sexual activity of any kind was allowed, and I understood that the consequences of breaking this would result in serious bodily harm, followed by shunning. My parents considered anything regarding my sexuality to be evil, and went to stomach-churning extremes to suppress and eradicate any ‘sign’ of it in me. Sadly, I was already well aware of ‘sex’(ual assault), and the only thing I can be glad of is that it didn’t happen in my early teens.

I spent my first 15 years living in utter terror of having or appearing to have any kind of sexuality, or consensual romantic or sexual connection to anyone. Luckily I was put in foster care before I got into a secret relationship and/or got pregnant, because I don’t think I’d be here writing this if that happened. Living that reality growing up has given me a crystal clear understanding of why this kind of proposal CANNOT and should not become law.

My perspective was further reinforced in my older teenage years at public high school and polytech, when schoolmates found themselves possibly or definitely pregnant. Some were abused by family members and could not tell them. Some were taken advantage of by young men either plying them with alcohol or lying to get them into bed for a one night stand, or raped – then spent two months in fear – some having that fear become reality. I will never forget the breakdowns, suicidal thoughts, self-injuring, research of old school abortion methods, panic over how they would get to the nearest clinic 1000+km away without family knowing, who they could safely tell, the potential father and their family making threats… it was an intensely stressful time for them.

This is still happening – in every high school. Find me a high school social worker, health nurse or guidance counsellor who hasn’t had to deal with these situations. Thank goodness our region finally has an abortion clinic – but only taking one barrier away still leaves our vulnerable youth in a difficult situation.

Putting another, impassable barrier in place that cannot be conquered by any amount of support and planning by the experts who help these vulnerable young women is one of the most unethical and dangerous moves our government and society can make.

It is a sentence of psychological and physical torture by family/caregivers and the mental health issues that causes, and a life sentence of raising a child born due to horrific circumstances and dealing with the issues that brings too. It is potentially a sentence to a newborn baby of a childhood of poverty, deprivation and abuse. It means more babies found buried in the back garden, more psychologically destroyed young women convicted of infanticide or murder. Am I pulling out emotive clichés for maximum manipulative impact? Hell no. I am referencing researched, published, proven reality. I could post a few dozen links – but we’ve all read the news stories, we’ve all seen the statistics. I know we don’t want to think that this happens, but we can’t deny it. It is real life for too many youth in New Zealand.

That is why I won’t be silenced by anti-choicer manipulation of my work on reproductive rights, while they attempt to eradicate the rights of vulnerable youth in desperate situations – and rubbish the ethics and expertise of their support workers.

And this is why all of us need to push our gut instincts as good parents aside for a second when considering this proposed law change. Please think of the too many youth who aren’t lucky enough to have parents/caregivers like us, try to understand the reasons why our children may not want to tell us either – and why it should only be their choice what they do when they become pregnant.

At the very same time a National MP brings this to Parliament, funding freezes by National mean that our most vulnerable young people – those in the foster care system, have even less chance of escaping violence and abuse that sadly occurs in a small amount of placements. If only they could get their priorities around protecting our young people around the right way.

 

 

100 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry Rachel, but allowing a child to have a life changing procedure such as an abortion without parental consent is a disgraceful indictment on our society. The sooner some sanity returns to this debate the better.

    • No, I would tend to say the horrific reasons for which a young woman may urgently need to keep her abortion decision private are the “disgraceful indictments on our society”, unfortunately abuse, coercion and violence aren’t going anywhere any time soon, so for a few women this becomes quite life or death.

      • We’re talking about a child having an abortion. My daughter can’t go on camp without my permission, but she can have an abortion? Your arguments are stone age.

        • Disclosure of an abortion has the potential for fatal consequences for the child. Telling their parents they’re going to camp does not present a risk of adverse consequence for a child. Please learn to think about situations before posting.

          • ‘potential for fatal consequences’? Are you serious? Having an abortion has ‘potential for fatal consequences’. Having an abortion has the potential for lifelong mental health issues.

            • Show me parents who have religious-based beliefs that their child must never participate in school camp because God disapproves and will send them to hell for eternity. Show me parents who threaten to ostracize their child from their whole family if they go on a school camp. Show me parents who would be shocked to know that their child is thinking about camping, and proceed to harangue them with how dangerous camping is before marriage.
              Only then will your comparison make any sense.

                • @ Rachael Goldsmith: “Yes. Me. I experienced everything you listed. Yes, really.”

                  Really? Crikey….

                • I believe I know about that of which you speak. I spent time in a fundamentalist group that fits your description in every detail. The implications either way are extremely weighty, and a youth’s well-being is often secondary by doctrine and even self-interest. It’s a unique set of circumstances that parallels abuse situations in that there is no escape, no safe place. I’ve seen the outcomes. I’ve seen the damage done … youth suicide. In these sets of circumstances I have to acknowledge that a provision has to be made. However, I still have grave doubts about this. Who else is having an influence on the child? .. how much and for how long? Is it really her decision and hers alone? These are the questions an honest, diligent and loving parent will be desperate to know. Nobody can love a child like it’s parents, and while some fail to nurture and protect that love, there are no surrogates, only authorities, to replace it. That’s not something I can readily embrace as a parent. The default must be transparency, and withholding parental involvement, the exception.

              • Show me any evidence that a significant number of parents who want to know their child is having an abortion are doing any of those things. It’s simply fiction. We don’t live in the stone age, we live in a time when parents live with a whole raft of moral conflicts regarding their children. We simply want to be there for them. You would take that right away.

                • Dave, this is your last comment on this blog. You are being incredibly offensive and frankly, trolling. If you think child sexual abuse in NZ is fiction, then please, get off my blog and Google ‘child abuse in NZ’. You’ll be there reading for quite some years.

        • Your attempts at controlling her failed when she had sex without your permission. If she can’t confide in you that it was coerced or forced, then she can’t confide in you now.

      • Yep I did; I just don’t buy it. A 15 year old is a child in a woman’s body. An abortion is a life changing experience, one that no child should ever be able to make without parental consent.

        • You know what’s WAY more life changing than an abortion? Giving birth. Being forced to carry a pregnancy you don’t want, deal with the massive and weird changes to your body, and then the (often traumatic) experience of labour- all without wanting the baby that people are so quick to ‘protect’ with draconian laws but so slow to support once their born.

          I am pro-child, and for that reason I’m pro-life. Requiring a young woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy because of their parent’s views is morally wrong.

          Every child a wanted child!

          • “You know what’s WAY more life changing than an abortion? Giving birth. ”

            I disagree. An abortion is an emotional nightmare that scars most women for life, sometimes leading to suicide.

            “Requiring a young woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy because of their parent’s views is morally wrong. ”

            Say’s who? What right do you have to force your morals onto the rest of us?

            • Hey dude – that’s way out of line. An unwanted pregnancy is an emotional nightmare and any of the three choices are going to have a significant impact on that woman, and all three can lead to suicide depending on the woman. And those emotional scars are 100 per cent more likely if the woman/girl has pressure exerted on her by others into doing something she doesn’t want. I’m not a fan of abortion but aren’t you imposing your morals by removing one of the informed person’s (remembering they have to have counselling before they are allowed one) personal choices? The one time in her life she is ever so alone, even with others (apart from dying)?.

                • @ Dangerousdave: ” I’m arguing for parental consent.”

                  It seems that you don’t understand this issue. Parental consent cannot extend to decisions about your daughter’s pregnancy. She’s the one who is pregnant: not you. This in no way resembles her having appendicitis, cancer, or some other condition requiring medical treatment. Just think about it from her perspective, not yours.

              • You’re just spouting opinion as if it’s fact. There are no reliable links between abortion and increased mental health risk. Meta-studies have shown no links. Yes, some people will have mental health issues after abortion, just like some people have mental health issues after giving birth.

            • What right do you have to force your morals onto the rest of us?

              The old freedom-is-slavery argument, huh? Do you realise how absurd your arguments have become, Dave?

          • If kids don’t want to go thru child birth – don’t fall pregnant in the first place. There are things called contraceptives, there’s also self control. Abortion should not be a “One stop shop” to correct their mistakes. Allowing young girls to have abortions isn’t helping them at all. It is simply making them more promiscuous because they know they can get rid of the UNWANTED baby and their parents need never ever know about it. They won’t learn responsibility if someone is always there to CLEAN UP THEIR MESSES. I fail to see how this law can be legal. It is appalling to think our politicians think this is a good idea. It is so wrong on so many levels.

            • “Shirley” – you refer to accidental pregnancies and resulting babies as “messes”? Perhaps you should look at it from the view of bringing more unwanted children onto a planet with already 7 billion human beings.

              The rest of your rant is a quasi-religious punitive attack on “sinners”, using children as punishment.

            • @ Shirley Gussey: “If kids don’t want to go thru child birth – don’t fall pregnant in the first place. There are things called contraceptives, there’s also self control.”

              Aha! This seems to be a missive from the Perfect World. Tell me how to find it: is it far from here, and does one need a passport?

              Unfortunately, the rest of us live in the real world, where contraceptives don’t always work, teenagers – both male and female – want to have sex, and Uncle Fred or Mum’s latest boyfriend think that self-control applies to someone else, not them.

        • Could you look a 15 year old (pregnant to her uncle, who’s been raping her since her father stopped molesting her himself and ‘passed her on’, and whose mother is in total denial) in the face and tell her that she can’t have an abortion because of your above reasoning?

          • Yes, I could. Because neither you or I know whether or not the parents would say no, for the simple reason they aren’t being consulted. Many parents would happily agree, and indeed support their daughter through the horrible event that is an abortion.

            • of course a lot of parents would agree and be supportive. If I had been in that situation at that age I would have discussed it with my parents, and I expect they would have been supportive of whatever conclusion I reached. However, the reason a girl in that situation needs to have some leeway to not tell her parents is because if she believes her parents will be a problem about it, she may well have good reason to believe that.

              • That’s sounds superficially acceptable, but I doubt very much whether or not a15 year old can truly gauge how her parents will react. I put it to you that parents who react badly to an announcement of their child’s pregnancy may well react even worse to the news she had an abortion!

                • Truth is, Dave, you have no idea how children’s parents will react. We have one of the highest rates of child killings on Earth, often by family members, which indicates that children are vulnerable to violence.

            • Many parents would happily agree

              “Happily”?!

              Dear lord…

              … and indeed support their daughter through the horrible event that is an abortion.

              And just how do you know this?!

              Those are sweeping statements based more on faith and your own state-of-mind, rather than anything based on factual reality.

            • OMG I can’t believe you would actually support a law that FORCES a girl who may have been abused by male family members to then communicate her need for an abortion to those very men!!!

              Your comment there is so amazingly heartless and shows a complete lack of empathy for the reality of girls abused.

              It’s child rape Dave. I too was a victim of pedophiles at age 13 and I’m telling you in very strong terms that if I had needed an abortion the last person I would have gone to was my parent. Because that parent knew what was happening to me and didn’t do anything to put a stop to it, even though it was entirely within their power to do so.

              Stop. Put your mind in the shoes of a young vulnerable person who is the victim of being raped by adults. Think about what that might feel like. Now add to that your parent or parents are either the ones harming you or know it’s happening and don’t stop it.

              And now you’re pregnant. And you are forced to tell your parent or parents. How would that feel???

              I’m telling you from my own very personal experience it would be devastating.

              I’m finding it so hard to believe you are so lacking in empathy.

    • @ Dangerousdave: “allowing a child to have a life changing procedure such as an abortion without parental consent is a disgraceful indictment on our society. The sooner some sanity returns to this debate the better.”

      Oh, it’s a hard thing for us parents to face, isn’t it! But Rachael is right. We don’t ever own our children: we have them only for the rearing of them, as my late grandmother used to say. Once my daughter is physically mature enough to conceive, she is a woman, whatever her chronological age may be. Therefore she is the one who gets to choose whether to have an abortion: it’s her body, nobody else’s.

      While I would greatly prefer that she confide in her parents, I can’t force it. Because we don’t own her. Put completely bluntly, it isn’t our business if she chooses to terminate a pregnancy; difficult, I know, but there it is.

      • “Therefore she is the one who gets to choose whether to have an abortion: it’s her body, nobody else’s. ”

        So you would agree to her, without your consent, taking up a P habit, having unprotected sex, refusing/accepting medical treatment, refusing accepting vaccinations…

        ….because ‘it’s her body, nobody else’s’.

        A 15 year old cannot give informed consent. A 15 year old does not have the emotional or mental maturity to make these kinds of decisions. End of story.

        • @ Dangerousdave: “So you would agree to her, without your consent, taking up a P habit, having unprotected sex…..”

          This is dangerously close to a reductio ad absurdum: she’s not going to ask my permission before doing these things. All other things being equal, I hope that she won’t do them. But if she’s hellbent on it, I can’t stop her.

          “….refusing/accepting medical treatment, refusing accepting vaccinations…
          A 15 year old cannot give informed consent. A 15 year old does not have the emotional or mental maturity to make these kinds of decisions. End of story.”

          Fortunately for all the 15-year-olds of this world, the health system doesn’t agree with you. And the health system is right, and you’re wrong.

          • “she’s not going to ask my permission before doing these things. ”

            You miss the point. If your child’s school was involved in her decisions regarding these, or health professionals, or counsellors, would you still consider it appropriate? No, I think not. The point I’m trying to make is there is a massive inconsistency in the view that this is the child’s choice. It isn’t.

            • @ Dangerousdave: “If your child’s school was involved in her decisions regarding these, or health professionals, or counsellors, would you still consider it appropriate?”

              Reductio ad absurdum…. You aren’t comparing like with like here.

  2. As you quite rightly point out Rachel the issue isn’t black and white. There’s so much grey in there, so many reasons why teenage girls may want / need an abortion and not want to tell their parents.

    There’s way too much sexual abuse and rape in New Zealand, and too much incest for us to give a legal requirement for any teenager to require parental consent for an abortion.

    Anyone. ANYONE. Advocating that all teenage girls must either inform parents or get parental consent for an abortion is ignoring the reality of incest. Put yourselves in her shoes. She’s pregnant from a family member, feeing abused and ashamed and now finding herself pregnant. She does not want to continue with the pregnancy and may not have found the courage to confront her family about the abuse. And you’d have a law which forces her to do exactly that.

    That’s horribly inhumane.

    We need to trust that teenager girls who find themselves pregnant and the medical professionals who help them know what’s best for those teenage girls.

    And abortion is not necessarily a “life changing procedure”. A great many women who have abortions feel primarily relief and get on with their lives.

    Bringing an unwanted child into the world though is life changing, always.

  3. I think it depends on the age of the teenager. If she is under the age of 16 and is legally unable to concent to sex then then how is she legally able to concent to abortion without the knowledge of there legal guardian? Also she is far to young to make decisions like abortion on her own without the people closest to her. Then there’s the rights of the parents… Sorry disagree with the article..

    • We provide minors with the right to consent or refuse medical treatment in a number of circumstances, why on earth would we not do so in the case of abortion? In the case of abortion there is the potential for extreme adverse consequences should the abortion be disclosed to guardian(s), so it is illogical to require that abortions be disclosed. Whether the minor can consent to sex or not is not relevant to their right to bodily autonomy.

      • Really? If a minor refused a Blood transfusion or critical procedure and the parents or guardian went along with it they would be before the courts. Or the law would intervene.. What medical treatment are you referring to?

        • @ Mark: “If a minor refused a Blood transfusion or critical procedure and the parents or guardian went along with it they would be before the courts.”

          Nope, it’s by no means as clear cut as that. In many circumstances, the health system regards minors as quite capable of giving or withholding consent for medical procedures. I have known of cases where minors with a terminal illness decided to refuse further treatment; their parents were understandably very unhappy about it, but the minor’s autonomy in such decisions was accepted by the medical staff.

          • That’s probably because their condition was terminal Merrial, if their descision was life threatening or they refused life saving treatment are you saying the medical establishment would abide by there wishes and disregard the parents wishes? But whatever, you seem to be advocating for underage girls to get abortions with no consultation with there parents even if relationships are solid.. If the family is dysfunctional or they’ve been abused by one of there parents then it’s a police or a welfare agency matter and they be removed out of that environment and another family member or friend can help them with the decision, it’s a no brainer. But leaving parents out of a decision like that is wrong.

            • I had a friend who had an abortion at 17. She didn’t tell her parents because she’s catholic and her parents wouldn’t have allowed it – even though she has a very close relationship with her mother. Even in her thirties she feels she isn’t able to tell them. If she was 15 would she have been in any better position?

              • A 17 year old has reached the age of consent maybe working and may have left home and be supporting herself. I’m quite clearly talking about minor dependents under the age of 16. If healthy parents don’t know of there child’s mistakes how can they council them into making informed rational choices and help them to stop making harmful mistakes in the future. Which is all part of being a good parent. You also can’t take away good a parents rights to parent there child because of the extreme views of small minority..

                • Right. So children of abusive parents just have to have a baby and be beaten and hounded into suicidal behaviour just so you can feel like you have control over your child?

                  • No, That’s a police or social services matter and the child should be removed from the situation and the situation addressed if there’s psychological, sexual or physical abuse. Quite sensible I would have thought..

                • “because of the extreme views of small minority..”

                  You do realise that it’s because of the extreme views of a minority (the ones who would disown and shun their child if she chose abortion; the ones who would use all their powers of manipulation and control to ensure that their child has to continue with the pregnancy) that the current law exists? The current law doesn’t prevent the inclusion of parents at all. On the contrary, patients are encouraged to include their parents in their decision. But if the patient chooses not to, there’s usually a very good reason. It’s to protect those few that can’t confide in their parents, that the current law exists.

                  • By default the parents should be informed and included. Only as an exception, with the help of social services, councilors and/or police should parents be not informed..

                    • You realise that if teens knew that anyone they go to for help has to tell their parents, a lot of teens wouldn’t seek help. They’d google for do-it-yourself methods, import drugs, or try the trusty coathanger. And if something went wrong, again they’d be reluctant to seek medical help. Their parents may be decent, loving parents, but if the teen feels they can’t involve their parents, for whatever reason, that needs to be respected, for everyone’s safety.

    • @ Mark: “I think it depends on the age of the teenager.”

      Nope, afraid not. If she’s reached puberty, she’s no longer a girl, chronological age notwithstanding. She’s the one pregnant, she gets to choose. Maybe she’ll confide in you, maybe not.

      No matter how much we might wish it otherwise, we parents’ rights don’t trump those of our daughters in such situations. We’re not the ones who are pregnant.

      • Nope I disagree Merrial, we cannot legislate for every individual weather they have hit puberty or not. The law is set to 16 and is a planket to protect everyone because people mature at different ages both mentally and physical you don’t get to pick and choose. That’s why people under the age of 16 are legally unable to consent to sex and classified as statutory rape.

        • @ Mark: “The law is set to 16 and is a planket to protect everyone because people mature at different ages both mentally and physical you don’t get to pick and choose. That’s why people under the age of 16 are legally unable to consent to sex and classified as statutory rape.”

          What has this got to do with access to abortion services?

          • The comment is quite clearly a responce to the first paragraph of your last comment and I’ve stated my position on this article in my first comment..

      • “If she’s reached puberty, she’s no longer a girl, chronological age notwithstanding. She’s the one pregnant, she gets to choose.”

        Yet I assume you would argue against lowering the age of consent?

        • @ Dangerousdave: “Yet I assume you would argue against lowering the age of consent?”

          Why would you assume that? Once again, what has this got to do with access to abortion services?

  4. This article should be required reading for every MP capable of voting on this issue, plus every person capable of forming an opinion. This is what’s at stake: the lives of pregnant people in the most vulnerable of circumstances. To all the great and good who have luxury of considering this matter in the abstract: it’s not about you.

    • @ Pictishmonster: “To all the great and good who have luxury of considering this matter in the abstract: it’s not about you.”

      Yup, about sums it up!

    • I agree.

      I’d actually take it further. I’d actually say that if you don’t have the potential of getting pregnant then you don’t get to pass laws that affect pregnant people.

      And that would go for people with uteri who are sterile too.

      • Thats a bit harsh. Ideally, any decisions about pregnancy, would be a family decision – if a woman was pregnant, I would hope she would discus all options with her partner and family, and took their views into account.

        In this case, the girl didn’t have a partner, and felt she couldn’t discuss anything with her parents.

        Remember – pregnancy affects more than just women – it affects the partners, and whole family unit. As such yes, even those who had no chance of getting pregnant should still have a voice in the matter.

        • @ Mike: “Ideally, any decisions about pregnancy, would be a family decision – if a woman was pregnant, I would hope she would discus all options with her partner and family, and took their views into account.”

          Indeed, ideally. But the final decision on whether to abort or carry the pregnancy to term rests with the pregnant woman; it’s her body and she is an autonomous agent.

          • Exactly, Merrial. We don’t legislate for an ideal world, but for reality. And the reality is that the pregnant person has bodily autonomy and has final say, and indeed has the right to choose who to involve in whatever decision is made. If someone chooses not to involve partner/parents/family, there’s usually a very good reason for that, so we don’t legislate that decision away for the sake of ideals.

        • You didn’t read my comment carefully enough.

          It clearly stated that anyone passing laws regarding abortion services must be a person who has the capability of actually getting pregnant.

          I never stated that women seeking abortion shouldn’t discuss it with their partners, nor that it’s not a family matter.

          Those who can’t get pregnant can have an opinion, but I don’t think they should be the ones controlling access i.e. making laws. All too often it’s a bunch of men writing and passing laws regarding abortion.

          Be honest. Abortion affects women WAY more than it affects men. It’s our bodies.

          The only exception I would make would be to allow women post menopause to participate in making laws regarding abortion, because they’ve lived most of their lives with the risk of unwanted pregnancy and are older and wiser.

          It’s a radical idea I know. To allow women control of their bodies without interference from men.

  5. Thank you for sharing here Rachel. It is a well reasoned and well expressed reaction to the horrible situation so many of our own youth find themselves in. You speak truth.

    The problem is that biblical neanderthals like Chester Burrows (and his supporters) are not going to look into all the shades of meaning in this legislation and simply want a “one size fits all” solution. It breaks my heart and makes me wonder where the hell NZ is today.

    I’m now in my twilight years (one foot in the grave the other on an oil slick) but this situation takes me right back to the awful conservative 60s when I first landed here.

    What especially pisses me off is that these monstrous changes that affect mostly women, ARE BEING MADE BY MEN.

    I was at university through the early 70s when femminism was in its first major heyday. I watched women make all sorts of important changes in their opportunities and how they were seen and defined. And yes, there was abortion at the top of the list.

    When I look at this proposed legislation and where women are today I feel as if my sisters’ battles were all in vain. Once again the stupid male cro-magnon brain cranks into life and reduces everything to inanities.

    Yes it is a complex issue but there is one overriding truth here:

    IF IT’S NOT YOUR BODY,

    IT’S NOT YOUR FUCKING DECISION.

    • That isn’t an overriding truth. Almost every significant decision my daughter makes requires her parents permission. But not an abortion? Come one, it’s absurd, and the sooner parents have some rights over this the better.

      • Dave,I assume you have a healthy,non-abusive relationship with your daughter. Has it occurred to you that many girls who find themselves in this predicament don’t have parents that care for them,and are possibly extremely abusive? Is it fair for them to be compelled to get parental consent when informing the parent is likely to result in further abuse?

      • @ Dangerousdave: ” But not an abortion? Come one, it’s absurd, and the sooner parents have some rights over this the better.”

        If your daughter’s pregnant, you don’t have the right to make decisions about it, counterintuitive as it may seem to you. You ain’t the one pregnant.

      • Dave – if a child’s relationship with her parents is based on mutual respect, love, and support thaen that child will trust her parents.

        If that trust is not there, then I submit to you that there are sound reasons – which you are not privy to – why that trust is lacking.

        You are viewing this issue through your situation. Now try looking at it from a situation where things are not as rosy.

  6. You’re all entitled to your opinions and beliefs (I guess) but it is interesting to note in the comments so far that the anti comments have come from men…

    • …and are men not allowed to express opinions and feelings around such things? Communities include all people do they not?

      • @ Phildc: “and are men not allowed to express opinions and feelings around such things?”

        Of course you are! But you don’t get the final say over whether your daughter wishes to terminate a pregnancy. And here’s the thing: neither does your wife or partner. This is the whole point of Rachael’s post. Pregnant young women need to retain the right to access abortion services on their own terms, without the knowledge of parents/guardians if that’s how they wish to go about it.

        Don’t feel offended at this on account of your being a man. We older women, the mothers of these young women, also don’t get the final say. This is very hard for parents to accept, I’m only too well aware. But accept it we must.

      • PhilDC – turn that argument around. Are women allowed to determine aspects of what you do with your body? Would you, for example, think it’s acceptable for women to vote on your fertility?

        Because that’s what it boils down to.

    • Yeah, funny that. I would’ve thought that many of them might actually think about how they would feel if they were forced to pay 18 years worth of child support after their contraception attempts failed, all because the parents of your girlfriend won’t let her abort. But, it’s all about them as parents of girls, not as parents of boys.

  7. Thanks for sharing this. Really personal writing and I totally agree.

    I’m a parent too, and for those who think ‘what about the rights of the parents’? I think it is ESSENTIAL to prevent harm that there aren’t any more hurdles in the way of vulnerable young people who need this essential health care.

    Family law principles show that, in practice, actually the ‘right of the parent’ to make guardianship decisions for the child decreases as they enter the teens and gain in maturity. Of COURSE we all want to be involved in helping our kids thru any such hurdles they go thru. But if we are there by their side and give them safety and foster communication, we don’t need a coercive law to guarantee that involvement.

    Putting such a law into place would make so many more negative repercussions for young people who fall pregnant.

    I just don’t get how someone can turn their mind to the possible impact of this law on a young person who is pregnant thru familial sexual abuse and still think this is an okay idea!

      • @ Dangerousdave: “Abortion is “essential health care”? First prize for meaningless euphemisms.”

        Ha! If your daughter’s under 12 and pregnant, an abortion sure is essential health care. For someone of that age, it’s by a country mile safer than carrying a pregnancy to term.

        If she’s older, an abortion is also essential health care if she doesn’t wish to have the baby. At the risk of being repetitive, it isn’t your call.

      • Re. Essential health care – yup.

        A healthy pregnancy with a horrible birth can result in a damaged cervix, uterus, hips, bladder, anus.

        What would be the equivalent natural bodily function for males?

  8. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to have sex. Therefore they should have to have consent from their parents/guardians to be able to have an abortion. The real issue is why is anyone under 16 being able to get into a situation where they can get pregnant?

    • Because we don’t lock teenagers in a cell until they’re 16? Because teenagers are not asexual automatons? Honestly, it’s not that hard a concept to grasp.

    • @ Brent: “The real issue is why is anyone under 16 being able to get into a situation where they can get pregnant?”

      I take it that you haven’t ever been a teenager….

  9. Hi Dangerous Dave,

    If your daughter fell pregnant, would you a) kick her out of your home and b) kick the shit out of her?

    If your answer to one or both questions is ‘yes’, the the reason for the law is self evident.

  10. Let’s reduce the argument put by those opposing abortion rights…

    In a Perfect World, everyone would use contraception. In that Perfect World, contraception is fail-safe, 100% of the time.

    In a Perfect World, human beings would have only one partner throughout their lives.

    In a Perfect World, everyone pregnancy would be carefully planned, and future mapped out, including no possibility of change in financial circumstances; no job losses; no company collapses; no work-affecting injuries; and no deaths.

    In a Perfect World, teenagers and children under 16 have the Wisdom of Solomon and Mr Spock combined, and never, ever, have sex of any kind. (See above: In a Perfect World, human beings would have only one partner throughout their lives.)

    In a Perfect World, adults never, ever prey on children or teenagers.

    In a Perfect World, all adults – upon becoming parents – automatically become wise and respectful individuals who know how to treat their children with love, respect, and support, so that a child always trusts an adult with a problem in their lives. (Except, in a Perfect World, there is no need for that parent-child trust because – See Above; In a Perfect World, teenagers and children under 16 have the Wisdom of Solomon and Mr Spock combined, and never, ever, have sex of any kind. )

    Yup. In a Perfect World, all of the above applies, and this conversation would never take place.

    However, since humans are pre-disposed to shun Perfect Worlds (we re-elected John Key, right?), I guess we have to make do with what we have now.

    It’s called Reality.

    • Well said Frank.

      I’ll add that passing laws to force teenage girls to communicate with their parents as a response to the imperfections of our reality….

      If you’re relying on a law to force your daughter to communicate with you, may I suggest you’re probably doing that parenting thing wrong.

    • *Sigh* I was gonna like that post Frank, then you HAD to bring up Key. Remember, some of us voted for him. In my opinion, voting Labour would be to shun a perfect world, in fact, that’d be hell!

      • @ Mike: “*Sigh* I was gonna like that post Frank, then you HAD to bring up Key. Remember, some of us voted for him.”

        You can still like the post, Mike: just ignore that sentence. Hey! Nobody’s perfect…

  11. Thank you for writing this Rachael. This is what I have been arguing for years with some extremely pretentious bible bashing Christians (including immediate relatives). The child abuse rate in nz is despicable and kids are being beaten and abused for spilling milk on the floor and other such menial misdemeanours. Imagine how it would be if a young person possibly having been raped by a family member may feel about having to ask permission to have an abortion a) they would have to carry around this reminder of what occurred for 9 months if they disagreed b) if they’re already being beaten how else are they expected to expect their parent to react. You can’t make a law for some and not others so I think until the child abuse rate is lowered dramatically some parents don’t deserve to kmlw

  12. A good friend of mine was actually forced by her parents to have an abortion that she didn’t want at the time. In hindsight, I think she would admit that it was the right thing to do. But she still has to live with that.

    It shouldn’t be a parents’ decision. I agree with the sentiment that if it’s not your body, it’s not your choice.

  13. Interestingly Hillary Keift (“Hillary’s Law”) had an abortion which she says she regrets. No doubt this attitude affected her daughter’s decision to not tell her parents about her abortion. Also the girl wanted privacy, yet mother is on a nationwide crusade – possibly another reason why daughter wanted her abortion to be secret (knowing what her mother was like).
    I can’t find any evidence, aside of Hillary’s own opinions, that the suicide attempt and infertility was due to the abortion.
    The fact of the matter is any parent would want their child to tell them about a pregnancy, and in most cases those of us that have the trust of our children will hear about it. However we must be honest about our intentions here – if we are to coerce a girl into following through with a pregnancy against her will, are we not guilty of worsening the abuse that got her pregnant in the first place?

    • It gets worse apparently. I hear that the girl involved already has one baby because her parents wouldn’t allow her to have a termination the first time she got pregnant. No wonder the school helped her this time around, if this is true. My heart goes out to this girl. Her mother is using her to promote her agenda.

      • I also note that she sent her daughter away to live with her grandparents in the south island, effectively kicking her out to live with strangers, who will probably slap a chastity belt on her.

        The MSM isnt putting enough scrutiny on this woman, and her relationship with her daughter, ironic given the proportion of young women in the employ of the media.

        It is people like her that are causing hundreds of young people each year to hang themselves.

      • A quick Google search reveals that Hilary is heavily involved with the Baptist church and the pro-life movement.

    • @ Mel: “Also the girl wanted privacy, yet mother is on a nationwide crusade – possibly another reason why daughter wanted her abortion to be secret (knowing what her mother was like).”

      This is in my view one of the most unfortunate aspects: that a mother would trample on her own daughter’s privacy in such a fashion. If she must put herself out there, she ought to confine publicity to her own situation and leave her daughter out of it.

      “I can’t find any evidence, aside of Hillary’s own opinions, that the suicide attempt and infertility was due to the abortion.”

      I’m also sceptical about claims that the abortion caused infertility. I haven’t heard her say that there were complications from the procedure. And – given what’s come out about their situation – a suicide attempt (if there’s been one) could have been for a raft of other reasons.

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