Another Conundrum

The pro-life effort at parental notification has been a bit of a mystery to me. Given the numbers in the general populace being “okay” with abortion, I always wondered if this was an issue pro-lifers really wanted to emphasize.

I’ll state upfront that I certainly want to know when my daughter has any sort of medical exchange with a professional. As a matter of parental responsibility, we should know everything going on with our kids. A few months ago, someone informed me that some notification legislation was only aimed at abortion clinics. Given that, I can see why some would find that unfair. As a parent, I certainly would expect any medical professional to inform me about anything they did professionally with or to my daughter.

Let’s assume that any fair-minded legislation would apply across the board to all medical personnel in every setting. Any time a minor went to a doctor, a nurse, a clinic, and spoke to any medical professional about any medical issue, the parent would be informed. So here’s the dilemma:

If notification legislation were proposed that included both teens seeking an abortion and teens opting for pregnancy and birth, would that be a good thing for the pro-life movement? In other words, do you think fewer parents, if they found out their underage daughter were intent on keeping the child (or giving her or him up for adoption after birth), would try to pressure her to abort? And if you think abortion clinics only should inform, how do you justify the position to parents who would want to know everything?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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11 Responses to Another Conundrum

  1. Kevin in Texas says:

    Parents are legal (and spiritual) stewards of their children until those kids reach adulthood. Unless there is proven abuse (physical or mental) by both parents, at least one parent should always be involved in the medical decisions regarding their child, even in cases far less traumatic than abortion. When I went to Catholic high school, our school nurse had to call one of our parents if we ever asked for aspirin or other OTC drugs for headaches (or the girls for their menstrual symptoms).

    I hadn’t ever heard of the abortions-only notification rule, but that idea seems about as legally and logically sound as the Connecticut state bill only affecting Catholic church administration or the NY state bill only affecting Catholic schools. Such ridiculously biased and unfair bills are unconstitutional on their face, not to mention immoral. Laws need to be applied generally, not discriminatorily.

  2. Of course it should be applied across the board. The Church is very explicit that parents have a duty to protect and educate their children.

    The move at present is to make the pill available without a prescription regardless of age. Expect the pill to soon be available through the government schools where the schools can circumvent parental authority in the service of the culture of death.

  3. Fran says:

    I am the stepmother of a 12 year old. Parental notification took on a whole new meaning for me at that point.

    There was a very thought provoking episode of the television show “Boston Legal” called “Roe” that was on the topic. I recommend viewing it if you get the chance, there was some very compelling dialog about people’s level of comfort with “choice” when it came close to home.

    That is the problem – to enter into this with our full humanity and with our feelings, as uncomfortable as they might be. To constantly make it other people’s business is to… well it got us where we are today. So we have the other people’s business versus the up in my business and wisdom seems distant and lost.

    With all due respect, I have a hard time believing that the “move at present” is to have free birth control at government schools.

  4. Fran writes : “With all due respect, I have a hard time believing that the “move at present” is to have free birth control at government schools.”

    Watch and learn. When it comes to contraception, all regulations take a backseat to getting the drugs into the bodies of women.

  5. Kevin in Texas says:

    Hi Fran,

    With regard to our feelings, I think you touch on a very important point. As human beings, our feelings are essentially untethered from objective judgements of right and wrong with respect to moral systems. That’s why there is a danger in letting our feelings guide our morals, of course. They can lead to a very unappealing, and immoral, dependence on “situational ethics.”

    This becomes clear when looking at particularly complex issues like abortion, contraception, etc. Our human tendency is to naturally feel compassion towards people about whom we care when we see them in difficult circumstances. However, we can also have tunnel vision and miss the forest for the trees in such cases, leading to disastrous results (e.g., the typical tough choice of a poor single mom who gets pregnant but cannot afford to have a baby and doesn’t want the “disruption” of a pregnancy and delivery leading to adoption to affect her life, work, education, etc. Easy to feel for her and overlook her decision to abort to save herself from difficulty, but not a moral choice, in any event. The right of the child to live supercedes the right of the mother to avoid the consequences of her decision to have sex.)

    Thankfully, we have Natural Law and the guidance of Magisterial and Christ-based teachings that aren’t based on subjective feelings in any particular situation. We fail to heed Church guidance on moral matters at our own peril.

    On another note, you must not be observing very closely what the current administration and many pro-choice at all costs groups and politicians are doing if you don’t see a clear general trend towards making birth control and abortion far more widely and easily available with as little parental interference as possible. Keep your eyes wide open, as laws to these effects are not far off in the future.

  6. Todd says:

    Kevin, I disagree with your first point here. While I understand the desire to disentangle from feelings, it is true that our rational side is equally vulnerable with “complex” issues. Human beings cannot always sort through “thoughts” in a rational way. Their application is as likely to be flawed as any dependence on “feelings.” We cannot claim any surety as merely mortal beings.

    That said, the impersonal guidance of the intellectual aspect of the Church isn’t always sufficient. A person also needs the support and guidance of a community: pastor, spiritual director, peers, spouses, and the like.

    As for the last point, we have yet to see if any of these policies result in an actual uptick of abortions. I have to laugh when people suggest this is the most abortion-friendly administration ever. Unfortunately the Nixon years cover that for us.

  7. Jim McK says:


    I have to echo Todd’s disagreement. If a young pregnant women assess their situations solely from the rational side, and ignore any feelings they might have, there would be many more abortions than there are today.

    How many people can rationally say that they are prepared to raise a child? It is only “feelings” that make parenthood bearable from what I have seen.

  8. For what it’s worth, the term feeling is being use equivocally.

    Kevin is using it as Betty Lou at the pool hall uses it. If it feels good do it, or be true to your feelings.

    Jim McK is using it as intuition, or as properly ordered appetite of the reason.

  9. Kevin in Texas says:

    Thanks to all for your points. I wasn’t as clear as I should have been in the previous post. LTG correctly points out that Jim McK and I are referring to different concepts in our use of the term “feelings.” In that sense, then, I don’t disagree at all with Jim’s point, nor do I wish to imply that feelings can’t also yield positive results in otherwise difficult relationships like the ones Jim alludes to (e.g., the child who appears to be lost to crime/drugs/sinful lifestyle, but who a parent refuses to give up on.) Thank God for this aspect of feelings, as it has undoubtedly led to many peoples’ lives being turned around.

    Todd, your point on the need for spiritual guidance from pastors, confessors, community, and family is well-taken, and I actually assume that as a given in my above post, which may be the mistake I made–obviously many people do not have that guidance, and yes, in a vacuum like that one, there is no doubt that feelings will win out over impersonal moral principles. My primary point there was to say that the Church’s moral guidance, and the indelible nature of Natural Law, are very clear signposts in the vast majority of situations, and for that we can be thankful, as Christ clearly intended this end when He established His Church here on Earth. And to preempt any misunderstandings, no, I am not saying that in all areas the Magisterium or the Church hierarchy are perfect/infallible, etc. Strictly on the grounds of moral theology, however, the guidance of the precepts we have been given is an invaluable tool not as likely to be misinterpreted as is one’s dependence on one’s own subjective “feelings”, as Betty Lou at the pool hall would say. ;-)

    As to your last point, Todd, the problem lay not in that one administration or another may have been in power when more lives were taken (and to be honest, I was a baby during Nixon’s time and am not quite sure to what you are referring in terms of life issues there), but in that the Obama administration uses its worldly appeal to muddy the waters via indefensible anti-logic on so many issues related to life (ESCR, abortion, conscience clauses, euthanasia, etc.) Doug Kmiec’s tortured defenses of ever-more egregious anti-life Federal policies would be Exhibit A in my argument. The other point I would make is that we are, as a society, much further down the slippery slope now than we were 40 years ago. The reasons for that are legion, of course, and provide fodder for many a Catholic blog post or article all over the Web.

  10. Jim McK says:

    I do not think my use of “feelings” is any different from Kevin’s, except that he wants to put a derogatory spin on the word. I refer to women who think ‘it will feel good to have a child to love, so I will do it” something Betty Lou would say, and has said.

    So yes, feelings can be an expression of an intuition of the good, but they are still feelings. If Kevin meant to exclude only feelings that are not correct, his example makes no sense to me. It is then not a rational vs feelings argument, but correct vs incorrect, something rather obvious.

  11. Tony says:

    A few months ago, someone informed me that some notification legislation was only aimed at abortion clinics. Given that, I can see why some would find that unfair. As a parent, I certainly would expect any medical professional to inform me about anything they did professionally with or to my daughter.

    As it should be. The reason that abortion clinics are being specifically targeted, is that of all medical practitioners, they are specifically exempt.

    I would be in favor of notification for any medical procedure involving my minor child.

    Can you think of any other medical procedure, including teeth cleaning, that you do not have to give permission for?

    With abortion, not only don’t you need to give permission for your 13 year old girl, but you are not even notified.

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