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Age of Consent and Abortion

Yesterday's post got us all talking about age of consent and abortion. This is a really sticky issue because abortion causes such visceral reactions in people. Parental notification laws always bring out the same extreme arguments. What if the 12 year old is pregnant by her own father? Or she was raped, etc...

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Posted by Rosemary on 04.08.2008
Ara Rubyan (www):
If a child is mature enough to make the decision to terminate her pregnancy; then why is she not old enough to consent to sex in the first place? ...so many of you think they are mature enough to consent to a life changing medical procedure but not to the sex that got them pregnant, in the first place.

D'oh! You just got done mentioning rape and incest, didn't you?

Yes, some parents will force their daughter to birth a child, others will force their daughter to have an abortion.

Hence the phrase, "right to choose." I'm against anything that takes that kind of choice off the table.

There should always be small loopholes for extreme situations but the overwhelming majority of these situations aren't extreme.

Not sure what you mean by "small loophole," of course -- does it include rape and incest? But in general, I would agree with you on this.

But here's where I part company with you: you're aligning yourself with a movement that is slowly choking off health care choices for women.
The number of abortion providers nationwide has declined by 37% since 1982. The absence of health care providers trained and available to provide abortion services can endanger women’s lives and health. Across the country, 86% of U.S. counties had no abortion provider in 2000, and as noted in the National Report Card, 34% of women live in such counties.

The lack of access to abortion services is particularly severe for women in rural communities. In non-metropolitan areas, 97% of counties had no abortion provider.
So count me as one of those who believe that removing health care choices for women is a bad thing.

You? I'm not so sure where you stand on this issue. Maybe you could clarify where you stand.
4.8.2008 10:01am
The Thomas (mail) (www):
Good take. Have you seen Rachel Lucas' comments on the subject?

I find especially interesting that at least one resource she sites says that "1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient)".

Rachel has an interesting take on all the numbers. Not just the why, but also the income distribution who.

I don't see an easy solution to this considering the ultimate "fix" involves education and personal responsibility.

Given the number of young people we have lost from my daughter's high school class due to OD'ing on Heroin (m'kay drugs are bad, heroin is really bad), if young people can't recognize situations that can kill them, how can we get them to take seriously other lesser situations that don't directly impinge on their youthful sense of immortality.
4.8.2008 11:20am
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
Hence the phrase, "right to choose." I'm against anything that takes that kind of choice off the table.

Actually, Ara, the phrase is a Woman's Right to Choose. Last I checked, female children are called girls not women.

Not sure what you mean by "small loophole," of course -- does it include rape and incest? But in general, I would agree with you on this.

Less than 1% of all abortions are due to rape and incest. Within that 1% are adult women who can legally choose to abort. The loophole would be for those cases not the 99% of the other cases involving pregnant CHILDREN. That is and should be a parental decision.

You? I'm not so sure where you stand on this issue. Maybe you could clarify where you stand.

This is a very hard issue for me personally. In a perfect world I would want abortion and the need for abortion to be eliminated. This isn't a perfect world though...

Because of that I would prefer that abortion be restricted to first trimester only and more specifically before 10 weeks. After that the idea and the reality of it makes me ill. I'm a huge supporter of RU486. That should be standard issue with the condoms.
4.8.2008 11:49am
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
OkA thirteen year old girl gets pregnant, and the parents, understanding the burden that an unplanned teenage pregnancy places on a young teen's life, insist on abortion.

Under the arguments presented yesterday, does the thirteen year old get to say no?
4.8.2008 12:28pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
Oops. Scratch the first two letters of my post above.
4.8.2008 12:29pm
Ara Rubyan (www):
Actually, Ara, the phrase is a Woman's Right to Choose. Last I checked, female children are called girls not women.

I've composed five answers to this and deleted them all because they sounded needlessly legalistic.

So let me say this:

I think it is reasonable to envision that the state might have some role in mediating this kind of difficult decision. But I would hope it would be with a light touch and not a heavy hand. Child or not, it is the mother's decision to make because it is her body. And, taking the reverse view, dpu's question is a valid one: is there a scenario in which the mother gets to keep the child in opposition to the family's wishes?

If these difficult cases are treated with a heavy hand, we'll see all sorts of unintended negative consequences coming out of this in the future. You don't need me to spell that out, do you?

I appreciate what you say about these being difficult questions; that said, I just don't think the default position should be for the state to have the final say.

Lastly, it is difficult for me to sit still during these discussions about the "comparative maturity of children that get pregnant" when you and I both know that these kids exist in an environment where there is precious little sex ed in school, not to mention the distribution of any kind of birth control.
4.8.2008 1:25pm
shep (mail):
"If a child is mature enough to make the decision to terminate her pregnancy; then why is she not old enough to consent to sex in the first place?"

Why doesn't that also work in reverse? Anyway, it's her future at stake, not her parents'.
4.8.2008 1:35pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
Under the arguments presented yesterday, does the thirteen year old get to say no?

No. I know a girl that was forced to have an abortion when she was 14 and she never recovered from the trauma. And another who was forced to both have and give up the baby for adoption.
4.8.2008 1:35pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
Why doesn't that also work in reverse? Anyway, it's her future at stake, not her parents'.

If it did, I'd have an easier time with this topic.
4.8.2008 1:37pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
No. I know a girl that was forced to have an abortion when she was 14 and she never recovered from the trauma.

And a child forced to have a baby against her will has no effect on her?

If the parents get to say that a child be forced to have a baby, the inverse is also true, they can force her to abort. Or is her body not her own only when you agree with the decision?
4.8.2008 1:55pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
Or is her body not her own only when you agree with the decision?

Actually, on rereading the thread, I'm not sure that is your position. Is it? If not, apologies. If so, have at it.
4.8.2008 2:03pm
shep (mail):
"If it did, I'd have an easier time with this topic."

Perhaps if you had a daughter...
4.8.2008 2:06pm
Jerry K. :
If you're a parent of a child that has done some knocking up, or has been knocked up prior to the age of consent, its time for YOU to go back to parenting school.

If a parent can't impart enough knowledge upon their children to get their willy covered or beaver dammed, how are they all the sudden capable of making life and death decisions in regards to an unborn child??
4.8.2008 2:37pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
If you're a parent of a child that has done some knocking up, or has been knocked up prior to the age of consent, its time for YOU to go back to parenting school.

That's quite a high horse you have there. Any of your kids reached their teens yet?
4.8.2008 2:45pm
Ara Rubyan (www):
If you're a parent of a child that has done some knocking up, or has been knocked up prior to the age of consent, its time for YOU to go back to parenting school.

That's easy for you to say, Jerry. Let's talk again in 10-15 years when your daughter(s) are a little older.
4.8.2008 2:55pm
shep (mail):
"If a parent can't impart enough knowledge upon their children to get their willy covered or beaver dammed, how are they all the sudden capable of making life and death decisions in regards to an unborn child?"

I assume that when you say "they" you mean the parent.

Certainly, no grown adults have ever failed to cover their willies or damn their beavers.
4.8.2008 2:58pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
If the parents get to say that a child be forced to have a baby, the inverse is also true, they can force her to abort. Or is her body not her own only when you agree with the decision?

No, that is not what I'm saying. But the reality is that a child's body is not their own while they are minors. Whether I agree or not.

Parents can force them to take medicine, have surgery or not, take sports, diet, overeat, etc...

Parents have the sole responsibility for their children until they reach the age of consent. It is the hope of humanity that parents treat their children with as much love and devotion that they deserve. And make the best decisions they possible can.

And a child forced to have a baby against her will has no effect on her?

In this case, it was giving the baby up for adoption that traumatized her. YMMV.
4.8.2008 3:28pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):

Perhaps if you had a daughter...


Wouldn't make a difference. I would still want the right to know before someone aborted her baby. I am a daughter Shep. I have very personal knowledge on this issue. I daresay my experience can't be matched by your liberalism.


If you're a parent of a child that has done some knocking up, or has been knocked up prior to the age of consent, its time for YOU to go back to parenting school.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That's a statement that you may not want to make when we live in a world where Karma bites our asses hard...
4.8.2008 3:32pm
Ara Rubyan (www):
My karma, as they say, ran over your dogma.
4.8.2008 3:47pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
I'm going to take a potentially unpopular position here, and say that as teens are generally bursting with hormones, are likely in the best shape of their lives, have few responsibilities or duties, and that it is probably one of the most exciting times of their lives, that they should probably be having sex? It is, after all, quite a lot of fun. I sure as hell wish that I'd done it more during my teen years.

Two years ago, when my son was fourteen, I found a big pile of condoms on the coffee table when I got home.

Me: "Hey, whose condoms are these?"

Him: "Oh, those are mine."

Me: (long pause)

Me: "Where did you get them from?"

Him: "School."

Me: "Uh, when?"

Him: "Today in sex ed. They had a big bowl of them and told us to take as many as we wanted to. They have a bunch that you can take any time you want."

Me: "Um, you think you need, uh, lessee, thirty-eight of them?"

Him: "Well, you never know. And they were free!"

So, given good sex ed and availability of free birth control, I say why not?
4.8.2008 4:15pm
shep (mail):
"I would still want the right to know before someone aborted her baby."

I'm fine with that, even if the minor doesn't want it. But that's not the same thing as parental consent, now is it?
4.8.2008 4:17pm
shep (mail):
"So, given good sex ed and availability of free birth control, I say why not?"

My first serious girlfriend and I rode the bus to the local Planned Parenthood together where she was prescribed "the pill". Why the bus? Because we were 15. Her parents were pretty progressive so I'm sure her mom would have taken her if she had asked and they certainly figured out we were having sex (we had lots of sex).

The point is, even minors can make responsible decisions if they're educated and have the option to do the smart thing. No parents required.

Kids don't automatically become sensible on their eighteen birthday, you know? Some never do. And most people's ethical brains aren't fully developed until their mid-twenties. The whole "minor" thing is a fairly arbitrary social construct.
4.8.2008 4:26pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
I'm fine with that, even if the minor doesn't want it. But that's not the same thing as parental consent, now is it?

Point taken. But when a school is required to ask permission before administering aspirin to a 12 year old...it's not a huge leap to expect the same treatment for a procedure that has risks associated with it, no? I mean there are complications, rare yes, but they happen. Probably as often as say a pregnancy due to incest or rape.
4.8.2008 4:52pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
But when a school is required to ask permission before administering aspirin to a 12 year old...it's not a huge leap to expect the same treatment for a procedure that has risks associated with it, no?

That's because there is a social and family element associated with sex and pregnancy. If a teen getting a headache could result in horrific family repercussions, they would probably not ask for permission, they'd just give the aspirin.

If pregnant teens face either humiliation or familial retribution when seeking a safe and legal abortion, then they'll seek an illegal one. I'd prefer a daughter get an abortion that I don't know about than die of septic poisoning from a botched back-alley abortion.

How about you?
4.8.2008 5:03pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
If pregnant teens face either humiliation or familial retribution when seeking a safe and legal abortion, then they'll seek an illegal one. I'd prefer a daughter get an abortion that I don't know about than die of septic poisoning from a botched back-alley abortion.

How about you?


I almost died from sepsis after having a routine procedure in a great hospital. My family would have been devastated if I died and they didn't even know I went there in the first place. How about you?
4.8.2008 5:24pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
I almost died from sepsis after having a routine procedure in a great hospital. My family would have been devastated if I died and they didn't even know I went there in the first place.

And you think that illegal abortions are of equivalent risk?

Hmmm.
4.8.2008 5:25pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
We aren't talking about illegal abortions. Abortion is legal - we are talking about who is allowed to have them. I mean should we just open the flood gates of everything illegal because people who want to will do them anyway?
4.8.2008 5:31pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
We aren't talking about illegal abortions.

I was explaining why consent was sought on aspirin, and not on abortion, and pointing out the consequences of forcing notification of parents. A teen who does not want a child and does not want parental notification will seek an illegal abortion. That's probably one of the major reason for not consulting parents.
4.8.2008 5:36pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
I mean should we just open the flood gates of everything illegal because people who want to will do them anyway?

That's generally the rationale for opening the floodgates, is it not? Take prohibition, for example. Did that make sense?
4.8.2008 5:38pm
shep (mail):
"But when a school is required to ask permission before administering aspirin to a 12 year old...it's not a huge leap to expect the same treatment for a procedure that has risks associated with it, no?"

Yes. Because teen pregnancy is a completely different matter for all of the reasons we have discussed, no?
4.8.2008 5:53pm
McKiernan:
Ara,

How about one official wedding cake per pregnancy (maximum one cake), everything else is abortion ?

That seems to fit you're game plan.
4.8.2008 6:28pm
Mark Adams, who's always correct, get used to it. (mail) (www):
Jerry, don't let 'em run you off dude. I thought your take was great. If you are so concerned about what your child does after getting knocked up, where were you before?

You want to know something that suddenly and irreversibly matures a stupid teenager? Getting pregnant. Suddenly, life is a reality and not just a reality show.

Rose, you almost talk about these girls as if they were property just because they haven't reached some arbitrary age. I'd rather think of it (and I've raised 1 son and raised or am raising 3 girls) like this. If you can get or get someone else pregnant, you skipped to the head of the class, forfeit the rest of your childhood and have to make some mature and responsible decisions. Among those decisions is to return to finish your childhood via abortion, now older and wiser.

But at the point where you have to deal with that question, your body has already decided you are capable of bearing a child, so you, and only you, have the ultimate choices to make on what to do about it.

Facing the reality of her situation, a pregnant 14 year old can be far more mature than her older siblings who have never had to face life in the face. And if you haven't raised your children to be mature enough to make intelligent and informed decisions even (and especially) when they fuck up and get caught, then yes, turn in your parenting license. You failed the test.
4.8.2008 6:54pm
shep (mail):
"Well, you never know. And they were free!"

Well, if things don't work out for him right away, I hear they make for great water balloons.
4.8.2008 7:06pm
Mark Adams, who's always correct, get used to it. (mail) (www):
lemme put a finer edge on it. When a teen in a fit of hormonal exuberance "decides" that having unprotected sex is a good idea is not the same somber decision process that goes into terminating the resulting pregnancy or taking it to term.

Are you a failure because your kid defied your desires? Of course not. Sometimes kids get overwhelmed and don't think, or don't think what you want them to think.

But if a kid who has reached an age where they can become sexually active is incapable of making a thoughtful decision that will affect their entire life, then you have failed to teach your child how to think.
4.8.2008 7:09pm
double-plus-ungood (mail) (www):
But if a kid who has reached an age where they can become sexually active is incapable of making a thoughtful decision that will affect their entire life,...

Who was it who said they were haunted by the thought that their entire lifelong career was the result of a choice made by a teenager?
4.8.2008 7:45pm
Mark Adams, who's always correct, get used to it. (mail) (www):
Michael Moore? I dunno, I give.
4.8.2008 8:05pm
Ara Rubyan (www):
McK:

Ara, How about one official wedding cake per pregnancy (maximum one cake), everything else is abortion ? That seems to fit you're game plan.


WTF? Anyone know what he's talking about?
4.8.2008 8:55pm
shep (mail):
"WTF? Anyone know what he's talking about?"

Only about half the time.
4.8.2008 9:18pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
Mark,

I'm not talking about these girls like they are property. I'm talking like a mother. Yes, I have no daughters. I do have two nieces and one of them is 13.

There is no way that 13 year old girl is:
A)ready to decide whether or not to have sex.
B)what to do if she was overwhelmed by hormones and got pregnant
C)poorly raised/abused by her parents.

She is very smart but smart kids make mistakes and they need guidance. That guidance should come from her parents not some agenda pushing public school official.

I LOVE the fact I'm arguing this with a bunch of men. Men, who, will never know or truly understand what it is like to be pregnant. Men, who, know what being a dad is but not what your mind and body go through and how pregnancy can muddle the soundest mind. Think back to when your wives were pregnant. Don't you recall how airheaded and absentminded we are in the beginning?

You guys are arguing as liberals first and parents second. Children that make mistakes need guidance, love and understanding and they need it from their parents.
4.8.2008 10:05pm
shep (mail):
"I LOVE the fact I'm arguing this with a bunch of men. Men, who, will never know or truly understand what it is like to be pregnant. Men, who, know what being a dad is but not what your mind and body go through and how pregnancy can muddle the soundest mind."

I love that too. Here us poor dumb (libral) men are arguing that a young woman should have some autonomy over her body and her future and you, the concerned parent and woman, are arguing to turn that right over to anti-abortion zealots because the poor, dear girl is too hormone addled to make the decision for herself. Priceless.
4.8.2008 10:33pm
Mark Adams, who's always correct, get used to it. (mail) (www):
Children that make mistakes need guidance, love and understanding and they need it from their parents.
Sounds to me like you mean they need understanding from their mothers, and fathers need not weigh in on the situation, but thanked for our "concern" then properly ignored.

Pregnancy can indeed "muddle" thinking. But the second decision dealing with the consequences is not as immediate as the first which led to the problem in the first place.

Personally, being a useless male I would tend to defer to the wishes of the young lady involved whether she's of age or not and whether I was the purported father of the young lady or her blastocyst -- so long as I was satisfied she had all the information she needed to make an informed decision and that decision was freely made since she and not I nor her all knowing mother would be most affected by the consequences.
4.8.2008 10:43pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
I love that too. Here us poor dumb (libral) men are arguing that a young woman should have some autonomy over her body and her future and you, the concerned parent and woman, are arguing to turn that right over to anti-abortion zealots because the poor, dear girl is too hormone addled to make the decision for herself. Priceless.

Zealots? WTF? Parents, not zealots.

And I'm not calling you useless men. You guys are plenty useful...without you we wouldn't even be talking about abortion. ;-)
4.8.2008 10:50pm
Mark Adams, who's always correct, get used to it. (mail) (www):
Rose, you know all too well that this parental rights supremacy position has limits, like when they decide to pray over a sick kid instead of taking them for life saving medical assistance.
4.8.2008 11:21pm
shep (mail):
"Parents, not zealots."

zeal·ot (zěl'ət) n.

1. One who is zealous, especially excessively so.

2. A fanatically committed person.

Describes a lot of parents I know, not far from myself, as far as that goes.
4.8.2008 11:40pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
Rose, you know all too well that this parental rights supremacy position has limits, like when they decide to pray over a sick kid instead of taking them for life saving medical assistance.

Absolutely. That's why we have CPS and courts. To override idiotic parents.

Shep:

Okay, I'm gonna give you that but you know what I mean and you are just arguing semantics.
4.8.2008 11:43pm
shep (mail):
"I'm gonna give you that but you know what I mean and you are just arguing semantics."

Not at all. You're arguing that the parent is more likely to make a wiser, more rational decision. I see no evidence of that.
4.9.2008 12:09am
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
You see no evidence that a parent would make a wiser decision than a child as young as 12 or 13? Really?
4.9.2008 12:17am
shep (mail):
Not if you (or anyone else) think(s) that child should be a parent, no.
4.9.2008 12:58am
TQL:
I LOVE the fact I'm arguing this with a bunch of men. Men, who, will never know or truly understand what it is like to be pregnant. Men, who, know what being a dad is but not what your mind and body go through and how pregnancy can muddle the soundest mind.

Which is a big reason why I have stayed out of this whole conversation. Rose, I get your commitment as a parent in this issue. But, I also wonder if your stance on abortion is having a greater impact on how you get to your stance on this issue than the fact that you are a parent.
4.9.2008 1:08am
Jerry K. :
Mark,

Thanks!! They didn't run me off. Right after I posted, which I actually cut short, I went into a two hour meeting at work and was essentially AFK till this morning. I read thru all the responses and was going to post again, but now that Mr.Wonderbread is at it again, I may just sit back and get some popcorn..

Jerry
4.9.2008 9:07am
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
Not if you (or anyone else) think(s) that child should be a parent, no.

That's a leap. I never said I think 12 year olds should have babies only that parents should be notified before their child has an abortion.
4.9.2008 9:18am
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
TQL,

No. In this case, I'm arguing as a parent first not as someone that is personally against abortion. I have a 13 y/o niece and if she got pregnant and wanted an abortion; she would need support and love and the people most able to provide it is her parents, her family. To me that trumps the politics of abortion.
4.9.2008 9:33am
TQL:
BTW, I worked in an abortion clinic in Missouri before parental consent laws were in place. The majority young people, under 17, who came in, did so with their parents. Those that did not had very good reasons for not doing so.

Hopefully Rosemary, your family and your niece's parents already have established a good relationship with her to where she would come to you all if she were pregnat and she knows she would be supported REGARDLESS of whether she decides to have an abortion or continue with the pregnancy. If she doesn't, there are bigger issues there that not even a parental consent laws can tend to.
4.9.2008 10:16am
matoko_chan (mail):
well...ima grrl, but im isomorphic with ++ungood.
virginity, no-sex-outside-marriage, those all are reactionary societal values deriving from the EEA(environment of evolutionary advantage), where virginity was the only way men could avoid the cost of raising progeny without the benefit of reproducing their own selfish genes.
a cultural hangover.

sex is good, we are wired for it.
education and protection is the right thing.

and the fetus isnt sentient until prolly 6 months.
there isnt sufficient nervous tissue substrate to support consciousness, thot or REM sleep until then.

also im with Jerry.
if your 12 yearold needs an abortion and cant talk to you about it, theres a reason. either u have done a pretty bad job of parenting or ur a criminal that allowed or perpetrated rape and incest.
4.9.2008 10:47pm
matoko_chan (mail):
and TQL.
sry Rose ur on ur own.
4.9.2008 10:49pm
Rosemary, Queen of All Evil (mail):
That's okay. I'm used to it. LOL
4.9.2008 10:52pm
matoko_chan (mail):
the stuff coming out of here is pretty awful.

bet those girls couldnt talk to their parents about abortions much.
4.9.2008 10:55pm
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