Today's Oregonian editorial
calls it "pathetic" that the U.S. Congress this week took up the issue of young girls who are taken across state lines to get an abortion in order to avoid parental notification.
What's really pathetic is the O's reasoning and straw men.
Let's start with the first paragraph:
Somewhere in Idaho, right this minute, a teenage girl may be asking her big sister to drive her to Oregon for a secret, scheduled abortion.
Never mind that Idaho's parental notification measure is suspended while the courts consider its constitutionality (and never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled
that such measures are
constitutional), so such a drive to Oregon would be unnecessary. The key point in that paragraph is that, in this hypothetical situation, a big sister is willingly leaving her parents in the dark in order to help her little sister obtain an abortion.
Why is that significant? Because the parents are still responsible for this little sister
. And, the big sister is not the parent
, regardless of the nobility she places on her actions.
Never mind that the nation's abortion rate continues to fall, or that today's teenagers are less likely to become pregnant than teenagers a generation ago. Never mind the global instability that might ideally capture Congress' attention. The Senate has concluded there are several, or even dozens, of pregnant teenage girls running wild in this country, and these girls must be grounded in time for the fall elections.
As I noted
yesterday, it's great that the nation's abortion rate is dropping, but that doesn't sound so impressive when you consider that roughly 2,000 Oregon teens under the age of 18 got pregnant in 2004
. And even though that rate has dropped about 10 percent since 2002, the fact that a crime rate is dropping does not mean we don't consider additional measures if the penalties are deemed insufficient. (I wrote yesterday that almost 10,000 teens got pregnant in 2000, but that included ages 18 and 19; I since found the data linked above.)
But my favorite straw man in this argument is the one liberals like to use often -- Why are you wasting our time with such unimportant issues when the world is falling apart at the seams? (Translation: we can't find any substantive arguments against the idea that a parent should be kept in the loop when their 15-year-old daughter is pregnant and considering her options, so we'll call it a waste of time.)
Let'e examine that a little more closely. On the Senate's Active Legislation
page, we see these gems:
- Extend daylight saving time
- Drug testing standards for professional athletes
- Constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration
- Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005
- Pledge Protection Act (limit court jurisdiction over constitutional issues)
Those are all clear examples of issues that, were they left to another day, would not hasten The End of the World As We Know It. I don't recall the Oregonian writing an editorial on any of them to protest that the Senate was wasting our time.
But perhaps a better parallel would be Senate Resolution 39
, which would apologize to victims and their descendants for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation. This, clearly, is important to African-Americans whose family members were put through mock trials in which they were found guilty of imagined offenses, and then strung up from the nearest tree. But is it more important than Iraq? Iran? Israel vs. Hezbollah? North Korea?
I'd argue the answer is no. But that doesn't mean it's unimportant. Just like the issues listed in the previous paragraph don't permanently relegate to the back burner a parent's right (and responsibility) to, well, be a parent.
The Senate's newly passed legislation isn't just an effort to support parents, as its backers claim. It's part of the crusade to criminalize abortion and increase the power of Congress over private medical decisions, all under the guise of family values.
Um, the point is not to criminalize abortion -- it's to criminalize those who would deliberately
keep parents from helping their children. And the Oregonian must think itself psychic, as it has ascribed a motivation to the measure's supporters that it has no way to know about. I'd appreciate it if the O could stick the facts instead of trying to invent motivations designed to belittle the other side.
Oh, by the way, the measure passed 65-34, with 14 Democrats voting aye, so it's not like it was an evil conspiracy by those right-wing Bible-thumping GOP wackos.
The Senate bill . . . is designed to isolate pregnant teenagers in distress and punish the people who would help them. The bill would make it a federal crime for anyone other than a parent to accompany a girl across state lines for an abortion, if the intent is to evade parental notification or consent laws.
Grandparents, aunts and older siblings would have no protections under this strict law.
Yep, they got it right again. We just want to distress our teenage daughters and punish their loving grandmas. Actually, read that again: it would be a crime for "anyone other than a parent" to avoid parental notification laws by taking a girl to another state for an abortion. That includes grandparents, aunts and older siblings. Why? Because grandparents, aunts and older siblings aren't the parents!
There is an exception however -- if the grandparent, aunt and older sibling is the child's legal guardian, that relative can do whatever he or she feels is in the child's best interest.
So if Idaho's parental notification measure is upheld by the courts and goes into effect, big sister can't play mommy and take her little sister to Oregon for an abortion unless the law says she's in charge. This isn't exactly ground-breaking.
The majority of Americans fall into the vast middle ground on abortion. They believe early-term abortions should be legal. They also believe that teenage girls should talk to their parents before making major health decisions, but they understand that rigid requirements for notification and consent can cause serious harm.
This has nothing to do with early-term abortions, but the O is right -- the majority of Americans (about 70 percent) believe that teenage girls should talk to their parents before making major health decisions. Forty-six states have some sort of notification measure on the books, though only 29 are in effect because of court action; and some are jokes of laws, like the ones that allow the abortion doctor to decide if a parent should be notified (in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland & West Virginia).
But requiring that a parent be involved in decisions about the major medical procedure of his teenage minor daughter -- not the big sister, not the aunt, not the grandma -- is not a "rigid" requirement, especially when notification measures allow judicial bypass in extenuating circumstances like rape, incest or abusive family situations.
It is common sense.