A few days ago, a judge in Omaha, Nebraska gave permission to a 17 year old girl to have an abortion.  Not sure why it was a story, but…

For many years, the United States Supreme Court has said that states can require minors to get the permission of their parents or at least notify them before getting an abortion.    I have argued in previous blogs against these laws.  However, the Supreme Court also said that, if the state enacts these laws, then they also have to give the minor the option of getting permission from a judge.  And that’s what happened in this case.

The Supreme Court made it sound so very simple.  Well, little girl, if you really cannot talk to your parents, then all you have to do is go to a judge.

Let’s think about this for a second.

Take your average 14 year old girl.  She – unfortunately – gets pregnant.  I’m not going to get into chastising her, feeling sorry for her or whatever.  The fact is that she is pregnant and she does not want to have the child.  Sounds pretty responsible to me (yes, I know she was “irresponsible” to begin with, but…).    The problem is that her parents are pretty strict.  No, let’s say they are extremely religious and the girl knows that if she tells them she is pregnant, they’ll practically kill her.  She would ruin everything for her parents.  Now, if you are anti-abortion person please don’t give me that crap that the girl should go to her parents anyway and they’ll work it out.  In real life, unfortunately, every family is not perfect.

So, the girl has determined that she wants an abortion but cannot go to her parents.  But, wait, there’s an easy alternative!   You just have to go to a judge!

So, the young girl decides to pursue that option.  Well, how does a 14 year old girl find a judge?  In fact, as I think about that scenario, I frankly haven’t the foggiest idea how you would get that process started.  And I’m not a 14 year old girl or one of her friends.  Where do you find a judge?  Are there special judges for abortion cases?  What would be your Google search terms?

Ultimately, you might get lucky and discover that several pro-choice groups have lawyers that help women through this difficult process.  So, you talk to someone and they say they’ll help.

The girl then has to sit down with the pro-choice attorney and probably some other staff to discuss her situation.  She has to be prepared to talk about why she cannot go to her parents.  Think of how embarrassing this process is for her, even when she is in friendly territory.

Then, she finally has to go to court.  Have you ever been in court?  Did you not feel intimidated by the whole process?   Now, think about the 14 year old girl, going downtown to the big, marbled courthouse with hundreds of people running around in suits.  Think about walking into the cavernous courtroom, sitting there with the bailiff, the court reporter and possibly others waiting silently for the judge to come in.  The judge sits down and calls your case.  Think about the young girl walking up to the bench and having to talk about how she is mature enough to get the abortion.   That requirement always killed me:   the girl has to prove that she is mature enough to have the abortion but if the judge determines she is not mature enough, then the assumption is that she is “mature” enough to have the baby.

It’s always easy for some legislator in some state to get up and pontificate on what the law should be.  In this case, it’s easy to argue about this “judicial bypass” requirement as if it is such an easy thing for a young woman to do.

Get real, will ya?

Brownback’s Backdoor Abortion Bill?

Senator Sam Brownback is not well-known outside the state of Kansas. You’re likely scratching your head trying to figure out why you recognize his name. Think back to very early in the Republican race, when the debates were populated by 11 different candidates. The guy on the outer wings, the one who said that he didn’t believe in evolution and that he’d like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, the one with the curly hair and the Kansas drawl, that’s him.

Sen. Brownback is known for his extreme conservatism. It’s not just fiscal restraint and state’s rights with this guy. He has members of the far-right going, “wow, this guy is hard-core.” Not surprisingly, Sen. Brownback is thoroughly anti-choice. He does not believe that there are any circumstances under which a termination of pregnancy is acceptable, not even in cases of rape or incest. So it’s not a shock that he’s introduced another bill regarding abortion. The knee-jerk reaction is to assume that any bill coming from Sen. Brownback regarding this issue is inherently flawed and a thinly veiled effort to undermine women’s rights, which is why everyone who has read the bill or anything about it is finding themselves a little confused, because that’s not what this bill is.

Here’s what the bill does:

For women and families whose prenatal testing has indicated that the fetus has a genetic disorder, physicians will be required to provide “access to timely, scientific, and nondirective counseling about conditions being tested for and accuracy of such tests.”

Additionally, the bill would create a nation-wide list of families who are willing to adopt children with special needs and referral to support services, including a national clearinghouse of coping resources.

While he may be getting cheers from some, Sen. Brownback’s efforts smack of an inability to grasp the difficulty of the heartbreaking choices some families must make. A diagnoses of Down Syndrome does not always mean that a family will give birth to a living child with Down’s. What it can mean is that the disorder is such that their baby will die from Down’s. The same is true for many genetic and chromosomal disorders. There are degrees of severity and some of them simply are not compatible with life.

The spirit of this bill is laudable, anything that allows women and families to make the decision that is best for them is a step in the right direction. But one step doesn’t get you to a destination. If Sen. Brownback is serious about reducing abortion, then it’s time to focus on the causes and impact of unplanned pregnancy. In fact, knowing Brownback’s typical M.O., one has to wonder if this is an attempt to lull everyone into a false sense of security before tacking on a bunch of amendments that undermine a woman’s right to choose.

Sen. Brownback says that this bill is an effort to promote the “culture of life.” But the so-called “culture of life” has to be about more than preventing abortions, it must be about making it easier to access information, birth control and the resources parents need to raise children in today’s world.

The fact is that the “culture of life” is not being promoted in this country, period. Families are not guaranteed paid medical leave, not all women can access the preventative health care necessary to decrease and detect birth defects, students are not given honest and thorough sex education, and when given the chance to cover low-income children for healthcare, the Congress (Sen. Brownback included) said “no.”

What are we to make of a culture that focuses more on the pre-born than they do the pre-schooler? There must be a broad and sweeping overhaul in how this country deals with issues like poverty, health care and education before anything can be done to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions.