Let’s talk about parental notification, shall we?


Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

robert graham intense“I obviously know more about any 14 year old’s family situation than she does!”

Anti-choicers hold two positions that are broadly popular with the public. One is support for late term bans, as antis have somehow convinced the majority of Americans that women will abort perfectly healthy pregnancies in the sixth to ninth months with alarming frequency unless the law stops them. The other is parental notification, which is one of those things that sounds reasonable if you don’t really think about it much (and most people don’t). So it’s no surprise that Arizona Republican candidate Doug Ducey would end his silence on reproductive rights throughout the general election campaign with an attack on Democratic candidate Fred DuVal over parental notification.

Here’s part of the statement that AZ GOP chair Robert Graham (pictured above) put out about it:

“Mr. DuVal’s position to remove parents from a decision of life and death is completely reckless,” said Pastor Jose Gonzales Q, of Harvest Bible Church. “Regardless of your position on abortion, we cannot possibly leave these types of decisions to developing minds. We are entering an age where parental involvement is increasingly important, but to even suggest that a minor – much less a 14 year-old – can intelligently comprehend the long-term impact of such an action is absurd.”

But that same 14 year old can intelligently comprehend nine months of pregnancy culminating in painful (and often dangerous to a still-growing body) and having to decide whether to parent the child or surrender it for adoption, right Bob? What Graham is referring to is Fred DuVal opposing parental notification laws in an interview. DuVal gave a perfectly fine answer to it, one that was brave considering that he’s running for Governor in a purplish state. DuVal said that requiring her to notify her parents infringes on the right of the pregnant woman to choose. That’s absolutely true but there’s even more wrong – disturbingly wrong – with Arizona’s parental notification law.

Arizona lawmakers were so eager to punish teenage sluts a couple years ago that they passed a law requiring notarized parental consent. Here’s the form that Planned Parenthood provides, which makes it pretty unambiguously clear that the girl (who must be named) is getting an abortion with the permission of her parent or guardian (also named). What medical privacy? The law does stipulate that documents relating to the parental notification are not public records and cannot be disclosed, but the notary public still knows you are getting an abortion, and if don’t trust that person and you live in a gossip-y community, that could be cause for concern. The whole point of the notarization is to humiliate and intimidate young abortion patients and their families. The anti-choice legislators made sure that even girls with the most loving and supportive parents in the world wouldn’t get away with abortion without some mandatory slut-shaming.

And for those unlucky girls who just can’t tell their parents for whatever reason, here’s what they get to go though!

Obtaining Consent for an Abortion
In order to obtain permission for an abortion from a judge, you must visit the Superior Court in the county where you live and file an application (also known as a petition) at the Clerk of the Court’s Office. You will then meet in private with a clerk who is specifically trained in this process.

Once you have completed the application, the clerk can assign a lawyer who will represent you at no charge. The clerk will then take your application to the judge, who may hear your case right away. If that is not possible, a notice of a hearing will be given to you. It will tell you the time and day of your hearing.

During your hearing, the judge will probably ask you some questions to decide if you are mature enough to make the decision to have an abortion yourself or if an abortion would be in your best interest. You may be nervous, but don’t worry, that is normal. Simply answer the judge’s questions honestly. Some questions that might be asked are:

Are you aware of existing alternatives to abortion, including adoption and parenting? How did you make the decision to have an abortion?
Are you aware of how an abortion is done and do you understand the possible medical risks? You may be asked to describe the procedure or the risks to the judge.
Does your partner know that you are pregnant? How does your partner feel about the pregnancy? You are not legally obligated to tell your partner that you are pregnant.
What kind of relationship do you have with your parents? Why are you unwilling or unable to talk to your parents about your pregnancy? What do you believe would happen if you told them? Do you have reason to believe they would react negatively due to something that has happened in the past?
Do you work? If so, where and when do you work, how much money do you make? Do you go to school? If so, are you a good student?
How are you going to pay for the abortion? Do you know what would happen if you had a medical complication? Who would pay for your care?
What are your future plans (school, job, etc.)?
What do you know about birth control? Are you planning to use it in the future?

After the Hearing
After the hearing, the judge will decide whether you may proceed with your abortion. Usually, the judge makes a decision right away, and you are immediately given a written Court Order that tells you what the decision is. If not, the clerk will arrange a way to get the decision to you.

If the judge authorizes you to have an abortion, immediately contact an abortion provider to schedule your appointment.

If the judge refuses to authorize the abortion you may:

Appeal the judge’s decision. Your lawyer can help you decide if this is a good idea in your case. If you did not have a lawyer when you began the process, you will need one for an appeal.
Ask your parents for their consent.

That seems fun, doesn’t it? This is what makes Graham’s pious moralizing all the more nauseating. Neither he nor Doug Ducey give a shit about the well-being of teenage girls. Conservatives are simply freakishly obsessed with imposing sexual “purity” on girls and young women and always dreaming up inventive ways to punish those who don’t conform.

But like I said, parental notification laws are supported by two thirds to three quarters of the population, depending on the survey. This is because it’s one of those subjects that is super-susceptible to “common sense” appeals, such as “but kids can’t get a tattoo without parental approval so why is abortion different?” There’s a simple explanation of why they are different: When parents are notified that their daughter is considering an abortion, they’re not just being notified of the procedure. They’re being notified that she’s pregnant and, more to the point, informed that she has had sex. Maybe not most, but a good percentage of parents do not react well to that, with some becoming violent. A high school friend of mine got beaten bloody when her father learned she was sexually active. In some communities sexually active daughters are disowned by their families. And frankly, we as a society have a lot of collective growing up to do about female sexuality before parental notification ever becomes a good idea.

Of course, that’s not likely to happen when there are right wing prudes in charge who think the threat of a violent father and death from cervical cancer keeps young women chaste. And don’t kid yourselves (looking right at you, Lisa Graham Keegan), Doug Ducey is exactly that kind of reactionary.

UPDATE: Robert Graham and I interacted on Twitter last night:

graham notification


  1. I remember a girl from high school who committed suicide. She was 16-17 when she rather hung herself than telling her parents she is pregnant. Yes, it was long time ago and the society changed, but not by much. See domestic violence.

  2. If a teenager is on their parents’ healthcare plan, what options do they have to get prescription contraception without their parents knowing?

  3. The complete and utter inability of these authoritarian goopers to put themselves in someone else’s shoes just continues to astound me.

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