FridayLife is a weekly opinion column which appears on the ProLife NZ blog every Friday morning.
Today we are are going to examine the important issue of abortion parental notification laws, and more specifically; whether it is morally permissible for a pro-lifer to support them.
For those who don’t know, an abortion parental notification law requires parental consent to be granted before any abortion can be carried out on a girl under the age of sixteen.
These laws have broad support within the pro-life community because they have been shown to lower abortion rates in areas where they have been implemented and properly policed, and thus they are an effective means of reducing the evil of abortion and saving human lives.
These laws also have broad support within the pro-life AND wider community because of the fact that such laws prevent outside parties from imposing themselves upon a family by procuring an abortion for one of the underage members of that family without parental consent, and usually without even parental awareness.
So, is it morally permissible for a pro-lifer to support a law which requires parental consent for abortions to be carried out on underage girls?
I believe that answer to that question is ‘yes’.
Why do I think that support for an abortion parental notification law is morally acceptable?
Firstly, an abortion parental notification law protects parental and familial rights by preventing an outside party from interfering in a family by arranging, or carrying out, an abortion on one of the young members of that family.
(Not to mention that it can also prevent sexual abusers from hiding their crimes by arranging secret abortions to hide pregnancies caused by their abuse of a minor.)
Support for an abortion parental notification law is NOT predicated on support for abortion, or on support for legal abortion, instead it is predicated on support for the natural law rights of parents to govern their own families without unwarranted, excessive or immoral interference from outside parties.
I really can’t stress this first point enough, because in many ways it is the central and most important point of this whole issue.
It is vitally important to stop and consider the fact that what lies at the heart of abortion parental notification law is actually informed consent, and more precisely this is actually about informed consent for serious surgical/medical procedures.
Parental notification laws are built on the vitally important truth that minors cannot give proper informed consent to serious life altering decisions primarily due to a lack of maturity in several important areas required for the processes involved in giving informed consent.
This is precisely why fit and proper parents who, by virtue of natural law rights, are solely and ultimately responsible for the care and formation of their own children, are the only right and proper persons to be giving consent to surgical/medical procedures involving their children.
In no other area of medicine could a child simply request a major surgical/medical procedure and be granted it, nor could someone else, under ordinary circumstances, step in without parental consent and arrange for a minor to be subjected to a serious surgical/medical procedure.
In many ways the fact that this issue is being raised in relation to abortion muddies the waters a bit, and causes some to lose sight of the fact that parental notification is actually a law which recognizes and protects parental rights, and people often also lose sight of the fact that not having parental notification laws is a violation of the important principles which govern informed consent.
As a result of this confusion some wrongly think that supporting parental notification requires support for abortion (rather than support for natural law parental rights) – they also usually miss the important fact that the lack of a parental notification law leaves young people far more vulnerable to various forms of coerced abortion.
Another area where people get tangled up in evaluating parental notification laws is by focusing on the case where a parent will use the parental notification law to consent to abortion for their child.
I would argue that any parent who chooses, or supports, abortion for their child is failing terribly in their duty as a parent (and a grandparent), and they are doing something gravely evil (which, in 99% of cases, will be caused by ignorance in one area or another).
But such a grave parental failure does not mean that good parents should be denied the right to actually parent well, and to be legislatively empowered with a parental notification law that allows them to reject evil and choose good for their children and grandchildren, and to protect them from the evil of abortion.
Secondly, support for an abortion parental notification law doesn’t actually require support for abortion itself, or even support for legalized abortion – I can still be vehemently opposed to the act of abortion, and to legalized abortion, while at the same time, where abortion is legal, supportive of a parental notification law.
In a similar vein, I can be totally opposed to pornography, and to legalized pornography sales, while at the same time, in a country where pornography is legal, firmly committed to an R-18 age restriction on pornography sales, and to laws which prohibit its retail display in public spaces.
Support for the legal restriction of an act is not the same thing as support for the act itself, or for keeping that act legal.
Thirdly, traditional moral philosophy is very clear that when we cannot take direct action that will be successful in ending an evil, we should engage in morally acceptable actions that will limit the evil.
The simple fact is that under current cultural and social conditions the chances of successfully passing a law that will bring about an end to abortion is probably several generations away from being a reality.
It is not defeatist, immoral, or even lacking in hope to accept and admit to this basic truth, in fact it is quite important for our own good, and for the good of the pro-life movement in this country that we do actually acknowledge this fundamental reality about our cause.
The important point is that in a moral, cultural, social, and political climate such as ours, our pro-life efforts are constrained by the fact that a legal end to the killing of unborn persons is decades away.
In the meantime I believe that we have an obligation to support any and all morally acceptable measures which will limit the evil of abortion, and thus reduce the number of innocent human victims that abortion will claim if it is allowed to operate without any restrictions whatsoever.
Abortion parental notification laws are one of these measures which restrict the evil of abortion, and which reduce the number of innocent human beings that it will kill, and the number of women that it will harm.
And because parental notification laws are NOT intrinsically evil, giving support to them would not be a case of using a good end (restricting abortion) to justify an evil means – which can never be acceptable to any person of goodwill.
Let me finish by once again pointing out the key point mentioned earlier – parental notification laws are NOT predicated on support for abortion, rather they are predicated on support for the natural law rights of parents to govern their own families without unwarranted, excessive or immoral interference from outside parties.
Latest posts by Staff (see all)
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