Imagine someone you may not know or like taking your daughter without your knowledge to another state to have her appendix removed. Or to have a hysterectomy. Or even to have her wisdom teeth removed.
You'd be outraged, right? How dare anyone determine that your child should have surgery without your counsel, permission or knowledge? In my tribe, a jury would forgive nearly any response short of ultimate justice.
Yet, in some states, parents are supposed to sit quietly, shucking their peas while their daughters cross state lines to get an abortion - without even a vote on which noble soul provides transportation, much less an invitation to provide the emotional support most human beings, especially children, require after ending an "unwanted pregnancy."
A bill passed Wednesday in the U.S. House (270-157) seeks to change the likelihood of that happening by making it a federal crime for any adult to transport someone younger than 18 across state lines for an abortion without parental consent. The name of the legislation alone is enough to send shivers: the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act.
The proposed law, which still faces Senate action, also requires doctors who perform abortions on underage girls to comply with state-notification laws and to contact parents, with violations running to $100,000 and a year in jail. Currently, 23 states require parental notification. Ten states, though they require parental notice, also allow other adults (grandparents, for example) to be notified. Another 17 states, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, allow minors unrestricted access to abortion.
There are lots of ways to look at this legislation, and cynics on both sides are behaving predictably. Pro-choice advocates see it as yet another erosion of reproductive rights and have resorted to the scariest extrapolation: Passing this law will endanger victims of abusive fathers.
Others lament the erosion of children's rights, as when Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said that the law would ". in effect make the young girl carry the laws of her state on her back wherever she goes."
Now there's a riveting argument. We wouldn't want to burden a young girl with heavy legislation that thwarts her desire for surgery. A child's gotta do what a child's gotta do.
Pro-lifers, likewise, raise the specter of the ickiest bogeyman in fatherdom: The abusive boyfriend, having deflowered the elfin lass, spirits Daddy's girl away for a concert with the devil.
Although true that older men too often impregnate underage girls, it isn't necessary to evoke worst-case scenarios to advance what is otherwise a commonsense position. That is, no child should be operated on without a parent's consent - no matter what the procedure - except perhaps to save the child's life when parents are too ignorant to make a reasonable decision.
If, say, parents prefer to hop around a boiling porridge of toad eyes and coon tails instead of agreeing to a lifesaving tracheotomy, then let the courts intercede. Otherwise, let's not allow exceptions, including the occasionally intractable parent, to override reason and the best interest of children.
Even if you approve of abortion as a choice "between a woman, her doctor and insert-god-of-your-choice," few parents would make the same argument for children. And even if you believe that abortion is only another surgical procedure that removes a clump of cells, it is still a surgical procedure for which, clearly, a minor needs parental consent. Translated: love, support, forgiveness and a hug.
In the bigger picture, the proposed law is also good for families. Parental autonomy has been incrementally undermined in recent years through various well-intended government initiatives, whether through public education programs that parents don't like or "protective" services that intrude in private matters even when not warranted.
At the same time, cultural trends minimize parents, especially fathers, as ignorant rubes while elevating children as intellectually superior, and surely far cooler. Underpinning these trends is the governing assumption that parents are not competent to raise their own children.
Granted there are plenty of bad parents out there - many of them sitting in corporate board rooms and legislative bodies - but most parents have their children's best interests at heart. They also know that abortion, more than a surgical procedure, is an emotional, often life-altering process that doesn't end when you cross a state line.
Mothers and fathers may be disagreeable at times, but a pregnant girl needs her parents more than she needs a special-interest group or a politician or a lousy boyfriend - none of whom love her as much.