Parental Consent and Notification Laws Are Dangerous. You Can’t Legislate Healthy Family Communication


It’s hard to describe the parental instinct that makes you cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, and changes you along the way. I have celebrated every moment watching my daughters grow up. I feel so lucky to be with them as they continue to grow and learn.

When they have their first crush, I hope they will come to me so we can giggle and share stories. I want to be there to show them that healthy relationships are grounded in respect. I want to ensure that any partner they choose will enrich their lives and bring them happiness. But if they feel uncomfortable talking to me or my wife, I hope they will reach out to someone like their aunt, since my little sister was always there by my side through my own heartbreaks and triumphs.

As a queer mom of biracial children, I know that my kids might face bullying because their family is different. If they are teased or are rejected by a clique in school, I want them to talk with me. We can discuss how they should not sacrifice too much to fit in and should always remain true to themselves. Difference can be difficult, but it is also something that we learn from and grow from, something that makes our family special. But if they think I won’t understand, perhaps they will look to a teacher or a minister, like the one who presided over one of our daughter’s blessing ceremony, for guidance.

If they have trouble figuring out the path they see for themselves, whether they want to go to college or art school, I can share my life experiences. I’d like to talk with them about privilege and how fortunate they are to have resources and parents who are able to support them financially to seek higher education. I’ll tell them how life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way you think it will, but it can be all the more exciting when it doesn’t. But maybe it won’t be me that they decide to talk to. It could be a guidance counselor or our family friend who runs her own business and has been another great role model as a strong and successful woman.

And if either one of my daughters were to face an unintended pregnancy, I hope she would turn to me so we can talk together about all of her options. If she felt like she was ready to become a parent, we would be her advocate to make sure she could continue her education and support her along the way. If she was not ready or able to raise a child, we would talk about adoption and abortion and which decision felt best for her. And no matter what decision she made we would ensure she had access to quality health care services. We would hug her and let her know that we love her unconditionally and that we will be there for her.

But if she felt that she could not turn to us, she could talk to her doctor, the one who has always made sure she has the best care, or perhaps she would call my mom since they have a close relationship and she knows her grandma would support her no matter what.

Like any parent, I want to be involved in their lives, but if my daughters ever feel that they cannot talk to me, it is most important that they have access to information to help make their decisions and they know there are supportive people who will be there for them.

That’s why I am so concerned about the array of laws that force young people to notify a parent or adult family member before seeking an abortion. Politicians are taking their discomfort with teen sexuality and turning it into an agenda that imposes their personal and political beliefs and ideologies. The policies emerging from the misplaced values of politicians are threatening the health of young people.

Most young people already talk to their parents about important medical decisions, such as whether to seek an abortion, choose adoption, or become a parent. In fact, research shows that a majority of parents and teens are talking about things like sex and birth control. But not all young people live in this reality.

For a young person who feels that they cannot turn to their parents out of fear for their safety or parental anger and disappointment, the interference of a politician does not change anything. A law forcing notification or consent doesn’t help. It simply makes it harder to access safe and legal care.

The reality is that you can’t legislate healthy family communication. That is something that we work hard to create within our families. As caring adults, we ask our children about their day, help them do their homework, open the door to talking about sex, and try to do all we can to build strong relationships and show them how much we care.

Legislators cannot solve family issues or force a young person to talk to their parents. Policy decisions are not the right place to interfere with family dynamics or personal medical decisions. We need to put the health and safety of young people first.

That means that we have to stop laws that restrict young people’s access to care. We have to stop laws that create an unhealthy environment for conversation. We cannot stand by and watch while schools diminish the needs of young people, demonize teen parents, and withhold accurate information about sex and sexuality.

We cannot continue to shame pregnant and parenting teens or allow them to face discrimination. We need to get rid of policies that limit young people’s access to prenatal and maternity coveragehealth coverage for abortion, or create limitations on access to emergency contraception.

There is an agenda at work here—it is both a personal agenda, based on our own discomfort as a society with sex and sexuality, and it is a political agenda where lawmakers (and corporations) impose their personal beliefs on individuals and families.

I will be there for my daughters each step of the way, but that does not mean making every decision for them. Sometimes it means stepping back and trusting that we raised them to be capable of making their own decisions and having faith in them.

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Follow Morgan Meneses-Sheets on twitter: @morgmeneshets

  • fiona64

    Exactly. These “parental notification” laws cause more harm because they fail to protect those who cannot, for whatever reason, go directly to their parents. And judicial bypass depends on timely intervention *and* getting a judge who does not him- or herself possess an anti-choice agenda.

  • radicalhw

    The title alone is the perfect response to anyone wondering why notification laws are a bad idea: “you can’t legislate healthy family communication.”

  • StealthGaytheist

    Parental notification laws are designed for one purpose only-to allow irate parents to slut-shame teenage girls then force them into being broodsows against their wishes.

    • dudebro

      Exactly.

  • JamieHaman

    Texas has this sheer stupidity of a law, and Texas has the 3rd highest rate of teen mothers too. http://www.livescience.com/45355-teen-pregnancy-rates-by-state.html New Mexico is in first place, with Mississippi in second. The scary part? All of it.

  • Shan

    And yet pregnant teens who intend to give birth are frequently considered to be “medically emancipated” (if that’s the correct term) and may seek any OTHER medical care they want without their parents being notified. You’d think the parents would want to have a bit of warning before their daughter brings a baby home. *eyeroll*

  • RobbieT

    All too often it’s Mom or Grandma taking Daughter to the Abortion Mill to get rid of the granddaughter or great-granddaughter. Coerced communication is unnecessary.
    All the other part needs is for a few fathers whose daughters got abortions to kill the murderers of their grandchildren. Unfortunately for that idea, most fathers are devoid of natural affection and think only of their own inconvenience.

    • Jennifer Starr

      All the other part needs is for a few fathers whose daughters got abortions to kill the murderers of their grandchildren. Unfortunately for that idea, most fathers are devoid of natural affection and think only of their own inconvenience.

      I think I see another Paul Hill in the making.

      • lady_black

        It’s none of the father’s business if his daughter gets an abortion.

        • Jennifer Starr

          I completely agree.

    • JamieHaman

      Really??? Got any thing like proof? Or does this accusation against Mom, and Grandma come from your extensive experience protesting abortion clinics?
      You of course approve of contraception, accurate information for teens concerning sexuality, and more help for families needing it right?

      • fiona64

        Heh. This idiot is a regular on WorldNutDaily. I will not be surprised at all when the news shows him having tried to kill a physician, if his Disqus history is anything to go by.

        • JamieHaman

          Wow. I looked at his history, and don’t normally do that. I did notice a lot of his comments are deleted from this section. Do you know if they’ve be deleted by Robbie T., or by the moderator? (Or if there is a way to tell?) I like to see the truly stupid comments stay, so new people can see what we respond to here.
          Grandma at the abortion clinic. What the hell do these people drink, smoke, or swallow that gives them these kinds of idea?

          • Jennifer Starr

            I’m assuming a moderator, because if they try to delete it themselves it still shows up, only under ‘Guest’. I haven’t flagged anything though, but a good deal of them seem to have been deleted.

          • JamieHaman

            Thanks for answering. I have wondered about some of the comments, and what happens.

          • fiona64

            If he tried to delete it himself, it would show up as “guest.” Only a moderator can disappear it … and they only do so when TOS is violated.

            I’ve had several replies to AntiChoiceMama deleted recently myself, since that woman causes me to swear like a stevedore with Tourette’s syndrome.

          • JamieHaman

            lol, thanks for answering. Some of the forced birther ignorance makes me crazy too.
            Love that phrase, “swear like a stevedore with Tourette’s syndrome.”

          • dudebro

            yeah I am trying to cut down on my use of insults otherwise my posts will get deleted

          • dudebro

            I hate it when they delete the especially rude comments, because I think that people need to see how truly *ugly* pro-life is.

          • catseye

            It’s NOT “pro-life”; it’s PRO-FORCED-BIRTH!

          • etherbunny

            Please my lease let me add that both my mother and maternal grandmother were pro-choice. Just didn’t know the other one that well.

    • fiona64

      All the other part needs is for a few fathers whose daughters got abortions to kill the murderers of their grandchildren.

      How “pro-life” of you.

      • JamieHaman

        Yep. Pro-live as long as it’s in the uterus. No one else on the planet with a heartbeat counts.

      • jake

        amen…. how is this sort of talk any better than the misogynist
        fundamentalist hate violence referred to as “honour killings” reported
        in Canada, England and France as well as much of the Muslim world?

        this
        is a new low. I have seen calls for terrorist “Justifiable Homicide”
        against abortion providers, clinic escorts and politicians. The latter
        from Roy C. McMillan of MS Christian(-Fascist?) Action Group in 1994. as
        well as judicial execution of women who choose to terminate and in one
        case a self described “racial nationalist” arguing husbands should have
        the right to kill their wives if she “snuffs out his White seed”. BUT
        this is *the first time* in years of watching the antichoice movement
        I’ve seen anyone sick enough to suggest a father kill their own teenage
        girl…smh

    • Shan

      “Coerced communication is unnecessary.”

      Patients are already screened to make sure they’re not being coerced into it before the physician will agree to perform the abortion.

    • cjvg

      How pro-life of you to promote and support the murder of human beings who are already born. It is very obvious you are a hypocritical liar who is merely pro-fetus!

      Actual living breathing people you don’t give a flying fig about.

      • P. McCoy

        Robbie not only talks like a terrorist but also a rank proponent of murdering innoccent people- I thought that the latter was considered against the law as well as considered reportable to law enforcement.

    • Arekushieru

      And it’s even less of the SPERM DONOR’S business (of either the embryo OR the pregnant person OR the paternal line going back several years), because they don’t happen to have a uterus (unless, of course, they’re intersexual) than it is of the egg donor’s (of either the embryo OR the pregnant person or the maternal line going back several years) business because they DO have one, which is proven BY the fact that they ARE the maternal line, because they GAVE BIRTH to these descendants. Oops.

      And what should these grandmothers and mothers do if the fathers’ (as more often happens, just like it more often happens that it is these so-called FATHERS who coerce women into abortions than those selfsame grandmothers or mothers, SFS), engage in reproductive sabotage and thereby coerce a woman into pregnancy. Again, OOPS?