Not the Kind of Consent I Support

Arizona, apparently discontented with simply attempting to strip pregnant drug addicts of their human and civil rights, has now decided to work on destroying any rights that pregnant teenagers in the state may have left. A new bill would mandate that the only way a teenage girl can get a court waiver for an abortion without parental consent is to prove that she is mature enough to make the decision. Sound kind of vague? It is. And that’s precisely the point.

A minor would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that she is mature enough to get an abortion without her parents’ consent, under a bill passed Tuesday by the House of Representatives.

Supporters say that HB 2263 just codifies a 2003 ruling on the existing parental-consent law by the Arizona Court of Appeals, in which the court specified criteria that can be used to determine if a minor is mature enough to make the decision to have an abortion.

Under the bill, the court could consider factors, including whether the minor has traveled on her own, handled her own finances, lived outside her parents’ home and made other significant decisions.

The measure also requires the court to weigh whether she has considered all her options and the potential consequences.

You know, the standard “a teenage girl who can’t confide in her daddy about an abortion needs her legislators and judges to take his place, and a daddy’s job is to restrict his daughter’s life no matter what the consequences” kind of fare. But what the hell does “mature enough” mean? Does anyone know? And what teenage girl handles her finances while living outside of the home before age 17? A few, certainly, but come on, now.

In this article we get a vague but somewhat more reliable description of how “mature enough” will actually be interpreted:

But Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, insisted that HB2263 tightens existing standards.

Sinema relies on a provision in the legislation that says a pregnant minor must not only prove her maturity to make the decision on her own but also spells out that maturity must be shown “based on her experience level, perspective and judgment.” Sinema, a lawyer, said the 2003 ruling leaves the question of what factors constitute maturity to each trial judge.

Experience level. Perspective. And most tellingly, judgment.

Is it starting to sound fishy, yet? Like maybe, just maybe, the law is designed so that any anti-choice judge in the state can turn down a minor’s request to a waiver with an utterly bullshit reason? But wait — this is the real kicker:

The bill also would prohibit a judge from granting a parental consent waiver if the girl already has been denied one by another judge.


If this bill is passed, here is precisely how I see things going down: anti-choice judges, obviously, are going to deny waivers. But I predict at this moment that the reasoning they’re most likely to use is on the basis of the minor’s “judgment” — by saying that the minor clearly has poor judgment, or otherwise she wouldn’t have made the horribly irresponsible decisions that caused her to get pregnant in the first place. (And is therefore so irresponsible that she must be forced to give birth to a child. No, really, it makes sense. I just haven’t figured out how yet.) The circular logic of it is rather beautiful, it fits very neatly into the ideology that promotes parental notification and consent laws in the first place, and I’d actually be kind of disappointed if judges didn’t at least make the effort to throw in some irony while deciding that they get to potentially destroy the lives of girls they’ve never met.

And then the pregnant teenager has absolutely no legal recourse.

You have to love those parental notification and consent laws. After all, Alaskan state legislator John Coghill does. Among the bullshit abortion regulation bills that he’s promoting, there this little gem.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee on Friday moved a measure revising the Parental Consent Act passed by the Legislature in 1997.

The act never took effect because it was immediately challenged in the courts, and a 3-2 decision by the Alaska Supreme Court last November appeared to end the 10-year legal battle.

The state’s high court ruled that the parental consent requirement was unconstitutional because it infringes on a pregnant teen’s right to reproductive freedom. It held that the state must use the least restrictive means of involving parents: parental notification without the veto power that comes with consent.

Coghill acknowledged that his bill requiring notice and consent will run up against the court’s ruling.

“I’m pushing the limits, there’s no doubt, but that was my intention anyways. I want to overturn (the Alaska Supreme Court). I think they are just so dead wrong,” said Coghill.

[. . .]

Thirty-five states require some type of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion but Coghill’s plan would be “the harshest in the country,” according to Planned Parenthood of Alaska.

“It would have disastrous consequences for the unfortunate few it affects,” said Brittany Goodnight, public affairs manager for the nonprofit organization which offers reproductive health care and counseling and operates abortion clinics in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The bill requires the consent of a parent, guardian or custodian before a minor can have an abortion unless the minor successfully petitions for court approval to waive that consent.

Please, everyone, stand up and give Coghill a big hand for this one.

Goodnight is correct, of course. But hey, what are “disastrous consequences for the unfortunate few it affects” when you’ve got a point to make? Americans are used to human lives as collateral damage for absurd an cruel political purposes.

I’ve written before about the injustice of parental notification laws and how they are tied to a sense of parental ownership over their female children. I’ve also talked about how the reason that parental notification laws are so dangerous is precisely because of the people who support them — the anti-abortion nuts who wouldn’t exactly take the news of a daughter’s desired abortion very well.

The very nature of parental notification laws means that minors who do not want to carry to term are going to be forced to give birth, anyway. Even if we lived in a fantasy world where there wasn’t any chance at all of a pregnant teen having the shit beaten out of her because a parent has found out about her pregnancy (sounds nice, where do I sign up?), I’d still oppose these laws. Because there are kinds of violence that don’t involve fists. Forcing your minor child to give birth against her will is violence against her body and her very person. A starkly anti-choice parent is absolutely not going to pay for their daughter’s abortion, and they’re also going to do everything in their power to make sure that she never sees the inside of an abortion clinic. The parent can’t legally stop her, but what is legal and what actually happens are two very different things.

But Coghill, you’ve got to give him credit. The dude’s honest. Most parental notification law supporters will use language like “a parent has a right to know,” which will dupe the unsuspecting and controlling but not sadistic parents into supporting the bill. But even many of these people wouldn’t support a parental right to subjugate one’s daughter’s body and force her to continue a pregnancy against her will. Coghill is a man who will openly admit that this is the very point of parental notification laws, be proud of it, and be willing to fight for it.

For the sake of young women in these two states — and everywhere — I can only hope like hell that the measures are defeated. Otherwise, things are very likely to turn tragic.

0 thoughts on “Not the Kind of Consent I Support

  1. Roy

    It’s the classic Catch 22. It’s enough to make Heller cry.

    We can’t have irresponsible women getting abortions without parental notification, and, obviously, any woman who would need one under that circumstance must not be responsible.


  2. Dustin

    Hi. I love your blog. I also thought maybe you could help me. I’m looking for women bloggers/journalists/internet gurus in the Chicago area who focus mostly on politics. I’m organizing a panel discussion for an annual Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference and am looking for women for the panel. The title of the panel: Women’s voices in political commentary: Traditional media spaces and cyberspace. Any suggestions?

  3. Cara Post author

    Dustin, I can’t think of anyone off of the top of my head — but if anyone else can, feel free to let him know.

  4. merp

    I ws just going to say what Mortality said. I know this ain’t right either, but I want to find out the judgement/maturity level of people who are going to be raising kids… not the other way around… (and I’m not being entirely serious, since it’s not right to prevent people from having kids either, but you see what I’m saying…)

    I don’t like being a woman in this world anymore.


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