There's what's right and what's real, and much of the debate about reproductive rights in this country, especially in regard to minors, centers around the relative priorities assigned to "right" and "real" and the government's appropriate role in each.
A review of public policy, research, and public/professional opinion from the last thirty years regarding mandated parental involvement in minors' sexual and reproductive health care published yesterday by the Guttmacher Institute comes down firmly on the side of "real," stating "the evidence shows that policies forcing parental involvement in either abortion or contraceptive services can pose a significant threat to teenagers' health and well-being."
Yet such policies, particularly in relation to abortion, continue to be promoted at the state and federal levels due to efforts to legislate what is "right."
"Of course, all parents hope that their teenage daughters would consult with them about making the decision to have an abortion," says Cynthia Dailard, Guttmacher senior public policy associate. "And, in fact, most teens do. But you can't legislate good family relationships. If we want to protect young women's health and safety, enabling them to access confidential reproductive health services when necessary — including both birth control and abortion — is critically important."
Confidentiality for minors is at stake in two key arenas this November: in California, the ballot includes an initiative that would amend the state constitution to require that parents be notified 48 hours before a minor can have an abortion.
In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which concerns a notification law in New Hampshire that lower federal courts have ruled unconstitutional because it does not contain an exception for cases in which the abortion is necessary to protect a young woman's health.
Among the findings of the Guttmacher Institute paper:
-Most teens already inform their parents before seeking prescription contraceptives or having an abortion.
-Faced with a requirement that their parents be notified before they get contraceptives, teens say they would be more likely to have unsafe sex than to forgo sex.