Thursday, November 10, 2005

Terminate the discussion

With the recent nomination of Samuel Alito to overturn Roe vs Wade... sorry, I meant to say, become a Supreme Court justice, the issue of spousal notification of pregnancy and its termination has again made the news.

I'm a staunch advocate of choice. I believe the decision to have a termination belongs entirely to the prospective mother. As in most things, I believe that decisions about your own body are private and inalienable.

But. I think there is a but. Telling your husband he has got you banged up should in most cases be a given. If you don't think you can, you probably need not to be married. The same goes for bfs. If you don't think your bf needs to know you're banged up, sister, you need to get a new bf.

This is just common decency. You don't need a law to make you do it. Your own conscience should be your guide.

Is this the same as insisting your man should have a say in whether you keep it? No, but I do believe he should have some influence on your decision. I'm not saying he should choose for you, or you should necessarily listen to him. But let's face it, it's a major decision in his life as well as yours. (Not to mention that if you insist it's all yours now, what's to prevent his suggesting it's all yours when you demand maintenance after you've split up?) Suggesting otherwise is ludicrous. We do not simply put our seed in chicks and then they have their baby. We make an emotional investment.

I've read some rank bullshit on this score. Some liberals yelling the odds, shouting that it's none of the guy's business. I can only assume those guys have never had a kid. It was my business from the get-go when I had mine. I would have been mystified to learn that my wife felt it was some private affair to which I wasn't invited.

When I was younger, a gf told me she thought she might be pregnant. She had been pregnant before and terminated it, and had been very hurt by her bf at the time, who had not supported her through the process. (He drove her to the clinic and then went to the pub.)

The pregnancy "disappeared" and no more was said about it. But I felt hurt. I felt that I had not been trusted with something that I should have been. I would not have asked her to keep the child, but not even being trusted to talk about it...

I hope Zenella does not get banged up in her teen years. I think teen pregnancy is more often than not a tragedy, not just for the mother, but for the kid. These days, it would be rare that the privileged had kids that young, so I guess I'm saying it's a tragedy that those least able to deal with having kids should have them. Arguably, yes, you could say that they have less to lose and more to gain. It's not as straightforward as it seems at first glance.

But if Zenella is unlucky, or stupid, or lazy enough to fall pregnant (and it can happen to the best of us -- I've no room or desire to be judgemental about it), I'd hope she'd come to me for support. Indeed, if she was still legally a child, I'd be obliged to support her.

So while I don't support legal measures to compel children to tell their parents, again I think it's something that a parent generally has a right to know. Yes, I understand that we don't allow compulsion because in some cases parents would pressure the child to abort a baby and remove from them their right to choose, but I don't think it's helpful to frame the debate in terms of a child's right to keep secrets from their parents. In other spheres, we bemoan parents' lack of ability to interfere in their children's behaviour, and yet here we are demanding that they should keep their beaks out.

I am sceptical too of the argument that a 14-year-old girl is fully competent to make the decision without the input of her parents. First, we do not believe that she is competent to decide whether she is ready to have sex in the first place, and second, often the girl has not been competent in using contraception, belying any confidence in her ability to decide what to do with the consequence (although, as I noted, this is a lack of competence that can afflict us all -- however, while accidents do happen, there's a world of difference between a slapdash approach to contraception on the part of someone who knows better and an underequipped youngster's not using contraception because she is not clear on the consequences or on the risks she is taking -- perhaps that is a different issue though).

So, yes, I agree that no one should be forced to share information about themselves, even with their parents, but I do not believe that the refusal to do so is laudable, or something to be encouraged. If we had protocols for doctors to urge advising parents, I would support them, and I would support doctors' being urged to ask why not in cases where children were not willing to share the information with their parents, and to direct them to real support -- in other words, "fuck it, there's a mother and baby school in town" would not be enough. They are children after all and rights are all very well, but the right to be protected has to be somewhere near the top of your list; it's bang up there on mine.


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