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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Statutory Rape: A Key Issue Left Out of the Debate on Parental Notice for Abortions

In all of the press surrounding the recent release of Illinois' Parental Notice of Abortion law from its permanent court injunction, many voices have been given platforms to pontificate about why it's a really bad thing for the law to require that parents be notified before their minor daughters undergo abortions. Even though these voices do not even come close to representing the beliefs of a majority of citizens, the Chicago newspapers have given them extremely disproportionate coverage. Even when one considers the published opinions that do represent the views of the majority, it is clear that a key issue (if not the key issue) has been left out of the debate. I've written the Chicago Tribune twice now to expose this issue, and they have not published my letters. Below is my latest attempt, responding in particular to Dr. Emily Godfrey's letter which was published on May 14th.

Dr. Emily Godfrey's letter, "Parental Notice of Abortion Act is harmful to girls," reiterated the typical argument from those who oppose a legal requirement that parents be notified of a minor daughter's intention to have an abortion. It goes something like this: Pregnant minors can make all medical decisions about their pregnancies (e.g., prenatal care, C-sections) without involving their parents. Why should abortion be any different?

Dr. Godfrey actually admits the difference when she says: "My patients...should not be forced by a 'one-size-fits-all' state law to notify parents that they are pregnant." The concern, therefore, is not really about the girl's freedom to make the "medical decision" to have an abortion (the law, after all, does not require parental consent), but about concealing the girl's pregnancy and the sexual activity that caused it. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that a girl's decision to have a C-section has no bearing on whether others are aware of her pregnancy.

According to the American Bar Association, the majority of teen pregnancies are fathered by adult men. Furthermore, undercover research by organizations such as Live Action Films and Life Dynamics Incorporated has revealed abortion clinic employees offering to help young clients to conceal the age of their partners, despite being mandatory reporters of sexual abuse. Given these facts, it is unconscionable that the issue of statutory rape continues to be left out of the public debate on Illinois' parental notice law. To say that this law is reasonable would be an understatement. It is the absolute minimum that abortion clinics should be doing to protect the vulnerable teens of our state.

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