Jeff Johnson | Senior Staff Writer | Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Two key questions in the case are whether or not a child can objectively make life-and-death medical decisions under the stress of an unintended pregnancy, and whether she can provide sufficient details of her medical history to protect her health.
Abortion supporters argue that a New Hampshire "parental notification" law should be struck down because it does not contain a "medical emergency" exemption. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Tuesday that a number of conditions might require an "emergency" abortion, leaving no time to notify a child's parent or guardian, or receive a court-ordered waiver, as required by the New Hampshire statute.
"These types of conditions, if they don't receive immediate medical attention - not the time to go and get a lawyer and go to court and talk to the judge - but, immediate medical attention," Northup argued, "can cause damage to major organs, particularly the liver and the kidneys, they can cause, at times, the spread of infection, the loss of vision, the permanent loss of fertility and chronic pain."
In suing to overturn the law, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England relied on one abortion provider, Dr. Wayne Goldner, who cited five specific conditions he claimed could, "require immediate abortions to prevent severe and permanent harm to their health."
Goldner's list included preeclampsia (a form of pregnancy-induced hypertension), eclampsia (seizures or coma related to preeclampsia), premature rupture of the membranes surrounding the fetus, spontaneous chorioamnionitis (an infection of the placental tissue) and heavy bleeding.
But a friend of the court brief filed by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) and two other medical associations argues that "accepted medical authority directly contradicts [Goldner's] position.
"In the case of each of these pregnancy complications, as well as in the case of most if not all other recognized complications," the AAPLOG brief states, "immediate termination by abortion is not only not indicated, in many cases it is actually contraindicated."
While the debate over medical necessity continues, pro-life advocates, like William Saunders of the Family Research Council, believe that both existing law and common sense dictate that parents be involved when their daughter is faced with an important decision like whether or not to have an abortion.
"She cannot go on school trips without her parents' written consent. She cannot take aspirin without her parents' consent. She cannot get a tattoo without her parents' consent. She is prevented under law from marrying the person who got her pregnant without her parents' consent. She can't put the child up for adoption without her parents' consent. She can't have any (other) kind of surgery at all without her parents' consent," Saunders explained. "Why in the world would we carve out an exception here in the context of abortion?"
The New Hampshire law contains a judicial bypass provision that would allow underage girls to have an abortion without their parents' knowledge in situations where abuse is alleged or feared.
Saunders and Northup debated the case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. The debate was co-sponsored by the Federalist Society, the American Constitution Society and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Court should consider teens' immaturity and lack of knowledge
Wendy Wright, spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, believes the Supreme Court should consider not only the immaturity of minors facing an abortion, but also their lack of knowledge.
"A minor girl is not necessarily going to know her own medical history well enough to advise the doctor, for example, she may not know or remember that she's allergic to certain kinds of medications or anesthesia," Wright told Cybercast News Service. "That's one of the basic reasons why parents are involved in any medical decision. They know their daughter's medical history better than she probably does herself."
The Supreme Court has previously recognized the importance of parents' role in making medical decisions for minors, particularly decisions about abortion. In the 1981 case H.L. v. Matheson, the court found that, "The medical, emotional, and psychological consequences of an abortion are serious and can be lasting; this is particularly so when the patient is immature.
"An adequate medical and psychological case history is important to the physician," the court continued. "Parents can provide medical and psychological data, refer the physician to other sources of medical history, such as family physicians, and authorize family physicians to give relevant data."
Eileen Roberts found out that her underage daughter had an abortion without her knowledge after the teenager became depressed. Roberts searched her daughters' room looking for drugs, but instead discovered a post-operative questionnaire from the abortion clinic.
"She was hospitalized for depression and, during that hospital stay, it was determined that her abortion was incomplete," Roberts recalled. "She had to have another surgery, but she couldn't have that surgery unless I signed a consent form to let them repair the damage done by the abortion. But I didn't have the right to know, before the fact, that she was having an abortion."
Roberts charges that her daughter was pressured into the abortion by the teenage boy who got her pregnant and an adult female friend of that teen.
"She didn't even know where she was going. She didn't know what she was doing. She hardly remembers the situation herself," Roberts explained. "These girls aren't able to emotionally or intelligently, because they are so upset, focus on what they really should be doing or thinking about. They're being exploited."
Bill Maier, psychologist in residence with Focus on the Family, told Cybercast News Service that current research indicates passage of so-called "parental involvement laws" results in a 13 to 25 percent reduction in teen abortions.
"Abortion providers use a variety of scare tactics to make us believe that young girls will be somehow at greater risk if their parents are notified of the desire to have an abortion," Maier said. "[They] don't want any restriction on abortion at any phase of development for any individual, that's my impression."
Roberts agreed, adding that she believes, "the bottom line is money.
"If the girl does not have the abortion," Roberts concluded, "they lose $300 to $400."
The Supreme Court will also hear oral arguments Wednesday in the consolidated cases of Scheidler v. National Organization for Women and Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women.
NOW is seeking to have peaceful protests on public sidewalks near abortion clinics declared acts of "extortion" subject to federal prosecution under the racketeering statutes enacted by Congress to fight organized interstate criminal activity.
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