Monday, October 02, 2006

Deliver me from 43

When I was 19 years old I had an abortion. This admission will likely rain down on me all sorts of nasty pestilence from anti-abortion readers. Whatever. I have no regrets about my decision. I was a sophomore in college--unprepared emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually to bring a child into the world. I didn't tell my parents at the time and I don't regret that decision either.

If I'd become pregnant between the ages of 15-17 I would have definitely had an abortion. I wouldn't have told my parents. Not because they would have beat me or painted a scarlet letter on me. But I'm reasonably certain that they'd have guilted me into keeping the baby once it was born. Given that I was thoroughly unequipped to have a child at 19--obviously any earlier would have been exponentially worse.

In Oregon, our citizens are medically emancipated at the age of 15. This is the law. And while schools aren't allowed to give aspirin to students without parental permission, students are legally allowed to bring their own aspirin and take it themselves.

Ballot Measure 43 doesn't address the issue of medical emancipation. It only addresses abortion. And it does so using tried and true techniques of tugging at the heartstrings of voters by telling them that young girls just can't manage the guilt of abortion:

In the past five years the abortion has affected me in that I did become one of the statistics that go along with abortion in that the boyfriend is no longer around. We ended up breaking up shortly after that. We didn’t talk. We avoided each other at school. We were once that envied couple at school. I started avoiding my friends. I didn’t want to spend time or interact with anybody. I became very irresponsible and distant. I tried to escape the way I was feeling, the anger and the shame, by going to parties and drinking alcohol. At one point I even experimented with drugs. This wasn’t like me. I wasn’t the type to go out and do this. I was the 4.0 student that every parent wished their daughter could be and I dropped down to like a 2.5. I wasn’t trying. I wasn’t attending class regularly. I got distant from my family, constantly missing dinner and just not wanting to interact. I spent a lot of time alone, and it has damaged a lot of relationships. I definitely think that I went through a period of depression. I actually went through a period of counseling for about a year and a half to try to get past this and to help me understand what happened.

So she had sex with her boyfriend, became pregnant and had an abortion. And because she didn't tell her parents her grades dropped and she became a party animal? Isn't it possible that there is a little more to it than that?

This isn't about protecting girls. Its about controlling the reproductive decisions of females. Otherwise, why wouldn't this Measure revoke the medical emancipation of both boys and girls? If its not okay to get an abortion, why is it okay to get plastic surgery without parental permission? Why is it okay to have every other medical procedure except abortion?

Measure 43 even has its own MySpace, cleverly decorated with peaceful, anti-abortion shades of lavendar and taupe, flowers and lace. Its complete with a tale of woe from someone blaming their boyfriend for pressuring them into an abortion-and if only they'd told their parents their life wouldn't have gone into the crapper.

Its not up to the government to create relationships between parents and children. If a medically emancipated girl doesn't want to tell her parents that she's getting a boob job--she doesn't have to. I don't see MySpace sites decorated in lovely shades of green and pink warning us against the woes of mammary enhancement in teenaged girls.

Nor do we see it from legislators, although some are more than willing to jump on the abortion bandwagon:

Representative Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) discusses Measure 43, which, he says, it not a Pro-life vs Pro-choice issue.

Recently, I appeared on the Jefferson Public Radio (KSOR 90.1 FM) Jefferson Exchange program moderated by guest host Jeffrey Riley. The topic was ballot Measure 43 regarding parental notification for 15, 16, and 17 year old girls before they undergo an abortion. Kelley DeVore of Planned Parenthood Health Services of Southern Oregon spoke against the measure and I spoke in favor of it. While Ms. DeVore and I disagree on the topic, the discussion was amicable and I thank Ms. DeVore for her friendly attitude and demeanor.

From the outset, please understand Measure 43 is not a Pro-life vs. Pro-choice issue. Measure 43 is about two questions:

1. When appropriate, should the parents be informed before their pregnant teenage daughter receives an abortion? or

2. When a pregnant teenage girl wants to undergo an abortion and is unwilling or unable to talk with her parents, should she first be required to discuss her decision with a designated, impartial adult?

As a parent of 8 daughters, as an attorney concerned about abortions arranged and funded for their victims by adult men, and as a citizen who understands the consequences of such important decisions on a young girl's life, I say "yes" to both questions.

On the contrary Rep. Richardson, this IS a prochoice/anti-abortion issue. If it weren't, supporters would have drafted a broad, far reaching removal of medical emancipation rights for 15-17 year old Oregonians. We both know that isn't the case.

Further, the questions you asked above are so loaded as to be laughable. Who decides when its "appropriate" for a 16 year old to tell her parents she's having an abortion? The government? Please. Ron Saxton has spent the last 8-10 weeks telling us that the state government is too incompetent to teach kids to read, spend money appropriately and manage illegal immigrants, let alone make a decision about who should have to tell their parents about an abortion.

In addition, medically emancipated Oregonians already have to talk to an impartial adult about whether or not to have an abortion. You can't just walk in to a clinic and have the procedure. Girls are given the entire slate of information from the clinic as well as an opportunity for counseling and information on what to do if they decide to continue the pregnancy. There's a waiting period after the initial request as well.

Measure 43 isnt' about protecting teenaged girls. Its about controlling one aspect of their lives that conservatives are rabid about: abortion.