Hogan's Alley

Monday, March 06, 2006

Everyone Was Wrong About The Impact On Abortions Of Parental Notification

According to a study by the NY Times, the measurable impact of the laws in several states that require parental notification before teens can have abortions has been non-existent, or in some places produced an anomalous increase in abortions. What this signifies is that the arguments of both sides of the abortion fight have been wrong.

Opponents of parental notification have argued that it would prevent teens from getting necessary abortions and expose some to violent reactions by parents to their pregnancy. It now appears that they fundamentally misunderstood the family dynamic at play. It seems most kids tell their parents anyway, or parents guess they are pregnant. In any case, when parents know they are more likely to encourage abortion than not.

Conversely, the proponents of these notification laws hoped that parents, once notified, would provide the support to their daughters necessary to see the pregnancy to term. They failed to see that, unlike themselves, most Americans are accepting of abortions if they can see the benefit to the young woman involved. When it is their own daughter, the benefit is obvious and much desired.

What this evidence confirms for me is my ongoing belief that if Roe were to be overturned and we were forced to have the full political and moral discussion difficult ethical issues deserve in a democracy, reason and moderation would emerge. Abortions in the earlier stages of pregnancy would be available in most states and abortion advocacy groups could devote their funding and efforts to building support networks and travel assistance for women in states that continued to ban abortion. But would many states ban all abortions? It is easy for South Dakota to pass such legislation in an environment in which they and the citizens of their state know the final decision is up to the Supreme Court. It is not real. How would they react in a world in which they began to hear from constituents who were the parents of young women who were in need of abortions or might be in need? I think the outcome could be quite different.