Punishment For Being Human

by digby

It is very dispiriting that California's Prop 4 requiring parental notification for abortions seems to be in danger of passage considering how how high the stakes are for some of the most vulnerable people in our population. It seems that the anti-choice forces are on the verge of another successful chipping away of a woman's right to own her own body and choose her own reproductive future.

The ad to the left tells the whole sad story and I encourage you to click through and read it. But let me just say that it is a tragedy for any teenager to be forced to bear a child against her will. And that is a very likely outcome for some girls if this proposition passes.

Everyone would prefer that a young woman or girl would have a relationship with her parents that would allow her to seek their help and support if she became pregnant. Many girls probably have that. But an awful lot of them don't. They have abusive parents or those whose values would require them to make an irrevocable decision to bear a child against her will. Girls are, by definition, immature and don't always understand how time works --- they live in denial past the moment when they can explore all their options. Being kids, they don't fully understand the consequences of failing to face reality, and if they have to confide in their parents they may wait longer than they otherwise would, out of embarrassment or fear. And, of course, there is the problem of incest and abuse, which makes it nearly impossible for some girls to tell their parents.

The anti-abortion crusaders are now flogging what they call "The Juno Option" (thanks Hollywood!) but I think it's fair to say that there are few teen age girls as self possessed and mature as that movie character. Most women, of any age, are emotionally torn to some degree or another, at the prospect carrying a child to term and giving it up for adoption. Even if they feel that it is the right thing to do and are happy that someone will have the great happiness of raising a child through their generosity, it isn't easy. Most likely, their future children will have a sibling they do not grow up with, and even in the case of open adoption the relationship is fraught with complexity. Certainly, as much as the anti-abortion zealots claim that having an abortion "damages" a woman (and some do have regrets) adoption is no less difficult. Indeed, for a great many women, it is far more difficult.
Most people agree that the best solution for everyone is to reduce unwanted pregnancies. (Unfortunately, the anti-abortion zealots are working to deny women and girls access to birth control and the morning after pill as well.) But even under the status quo, teenagers are the least liable to be cognizant of their options and the most likely to take chances because they just don't fully understand the ramifications of unprotected sex. Being compulsive and irresponsible is nearly the definition of adolescence. Sexual activity is almost a given. It will never change.

What has changed is the hopes and aspirations of women. We don't see very many young women like Bristol Palin getting married these days, because somewhere along the line we recognized that forcing marriage on two young people was a disastrous waste of two young lives when we knew the marriage was very unlikely to be successful. So now, most teenage girls who decide to keep their baby do so on their own as single parents. That is certainly their right and nobody would ever say they shouldn't. But that decision is hugely life altering. Certainly, a teenager keeping and raising a child against her will is a tragedy for her and the child.

Polling says that the vast majority of people are in favor of abortion rights in the case of rape or incest. So, clearly the anti-abortion cause has little to do with "murder" of a fetus. There can be no moral difference between a child conceived in rape and one who is not. What most "pro-life" people don't favor is abortion because of unwanted pregnancy. It's as if the act of sex must be "punished" with childbirth and delivery if the woman did it willingly. But pregnancy shouldn't be punishment, certainly not for a teenager who did something that is so natural and so common, it's akin to taking pleasure in the warm the of the sun or the taste of chocolate. To punish a teenage girl for life by forcing her to carry to term, give birth and either become a parent far too young or give up her child and live with the consequences is extreme.

The bottom line is that if this passes, a lot of girls lives are going to be ruined because they couldn't tell their parents, or thought they couldn't tell their parents, and they waited until it was too late. It's just how teenagers are. It could result in a new form of back alley abortion, with girls going to dicey, unregulated practitioners so they don't have to face their folks. It will cause tragedies in any numbers of ways.

Vote No On Prop 4. There are young women out there whose futures depend on it.

And if you some how think that the pro Prop 4 people are sincere upstanding folks, take a look at this dishonest, manipulative piece of garbage: