The Marlborough Express 07/07/2010
OPINION: Should parents have the right to know their teenage daughter has had, or is about to have, an abortion? Tough question and such an emotional debate.
Abortion is legal in New Zealand if two consultants agree that the pregnancy will harm a woman’s physical or mental health. The Abortion Supervisory Committee reports that 98 per cent of abortions performed in 2008 were based on mental health grounds. What a girl needs most when her mental stability is at risk is love and understanding and who better to give her that – all things being equal – than her parents.
Initial shock and hurt feelings aside, good parents will do everything they can to support their child through a decision to terminate a pregnancy. Of course there will be times when parents are the last people who need to know, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.
Not so, according to Christchurch youth health physician Sue Bagshaw, who says having to tell parents could discourage girls from going to a doctor and turn them, instead, to back-street abortionists or more unwanted babies. Most importantly, unintended young mothers-to-be must have easy access to good medical help and experienced counselling services. These must be trained professionals able to help make the right decision for the teenager and the baby based on individual circumstances.
Pro-life groups argue there is never a choice to make: nothing comes before the rights of the unborn child. Pragmatists take a more holistic approach and weigh up the needs of the girl against the rights of the foetus. The views of anyone who sees abortion as a form of contraception should be discounted by any intelligent debate.
Family First and Prolife New Zealand have been campaigning for parents to have the legal right to be told when their daughter is considering a termination. While a law change was rejected in 2004, a poll commissioned by Family First found 80 per cent of people thought parents had the right to know.