God in the Courtroom: Evidence From States That Allow Underage Women to File Anonymous Suits Without Parental Consent

There is a fascinating article in the new Mother Jones (Sept.-Oct., 2014) about states that allow underaged women to have a hearing before a judge to determine if they can go forward with an abortion without parental consent. As we suspect, many of these girls face disastrous consequences at home for simply admitting that they are pregnant; few parents are as open minded as those in the Oscar-winning movie, Juno. But then Juno's parents were not depicted as religious extremists, either. The programs designed to give youth access to birth control through the courts simply have not worked, to judge from writer Molly Redden's absorbing piece.

"In Alabama and Florida," she writes, "some judges went so far as to appoint lawyers for girls' fetuses, even giving them names. 'You say that you are aware that God instructed you not to kill your own baby," one "thundered" at a 17-year-old petitioner. The questioning by the attorney for "Baby Ashley" is described as one-sided, few 17-year-olds can withstand that kind of brow beating. What good are statutes permitting such application to the court for permission to abort if one is going to go through something worse than the constant parade of Roman Catholics and evangelicals outside abortion clinics? No matter how well meaning they might be, religiously speaking, they put a woman through sheer torture. A pregnant teenager's rights to privacy should prevail over the appointed ad litems' Westboro tactics. 

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Pregnancy is a wonderful event, if the mother has some means of physical, emotional and financial support during her pregnancy and the early years of a child's development. If a mother has no such support, and isn't able to gain it, she is almost surely to be thrown upon the heap of poor women, unable to meet the obligation of her maturing into self-reliant adulthood while putting a child into the situation of being raised by a single mom with too many demands made on her and too few resources. Getting promotions or education for economic security often does not happen for her and she faces a life long struggle to over come her responsibilities and growth. She may have trouble keeping up with peers who have postponed motherhood until they are secure, either in a relationship or by her own means. 

What begins as a time of opportunities for training or advancement for young females may be made more difficult with a baby or children. Beginning a new career and having a baby present formidable challenges that may result in a life of economic security or one of a lifelong struggle for lack of money resources. 

A teenage mom, any mom has the responsibility to make the decision that is right for her. Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies occur and a caring mother will make decisions that are in her best interest. In making these tough decisions, she is acting in the interest of her baby. The courts need to be deciding on the basis of what is best for the mother and respecting her right to privacy.

I believe, wholeheartedly, every child should be a wanted child. Raising a child, with or without support from others and adoption are options, but not the only ones. "A pregnant teenager's rights to privacy should prevail over the appointed ad litems' Westboro tactics."


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