At the forefront of legislative debate in Florida this year are two bills, HB265 and SB404, designed to prohibit a physician from performing an abortion on a minor unless consent has been provided by a parent, legal guardian, or judge. The legislation has sparked uproar amongst pro-abortion advocates and pro-life activists, culminating in a huge protest in the State Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday. Instead of decidedly voting on the bill as expected, the Florida Senate postponed the vote until Thursday.
However, placing responsibility on a physician to verify that a minor is making an informed decision by requiring a minor’s legal guardians to sign a notarized document allows physicians and other public officials, like public notaries, to better intervene and stop abuse or violence when it is occurring.
While not perfect, notaries are specifically trained to critically assess the intentions of signees and be conscious of instances of coercion or force. In situations where a notary knows or suspects that the transaction is illegal, false, or deceptive, notaries are trained and legally able to refuse notarizing any document placed before them. After refusal, notaries then have the responsibility to notify law enforcement of suspicious behavior or actions.
Testifying before Congress, Laura J. Lederer, former Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons in the Office for Democracy and Global Affairs of the United States Department of State, noted that “the prevalence of forced abortions is an especially disturbing trend in sex trafficking.” If the true concern is for the health and well-being of a minor, then in a state that ranks third in U.S. human trafficking cases, a bill like this should be a no-brainer as researchers have uncovered disturbing links between sex trafficking and abortion.
Parental engagement laws place a pregnant minor’s interest and safety at the forefront of the conversation rather than at the back. There are significant concerns that arise from a lack of parental engagement in intense and emotional times for a child. By pushing against policies that unite a child with their parents, abortion activists are trying to encourage an abortion decision from children, a life-altering decision made in a way that leaves them unprotected and diminishes the roles of mother and father.
The family is the foundational unit of society, the building block of a strong and stable culture, and the first engine of economic growth. When things go wrong, usually parents are the ones helping a child deal with the trauma, not Planned Parenthood. And for those underage girls who talk with a judge, engagement with an adult who is not trying to make an abortion sale allows for an unbiased discussion and possible intervention by authorities if abuses are taking place. Good policy protects the safest places for a child and provides other adult intervention when needed.
Parents are legally bound to the upbringing and care of their children. Such responsibility requires that they be at the heart of the education and healthcare of their children and creates a system of accountability. If parental consent is required for minors to engage in significantly less intense and emotional activities like: going on a field trip, getting one’s ears pierced, and even taking an aspirin at school, then it should logically follow that parental consent should be required for dangerous, invasive, and life-ending operations like abortion.
The substantive work of Dr. Michael New has shown conclusively that laws requiring parental consent instead of parental notification reduce the minor abortion rate by about 19% and laws that mandate the involvement of two parents, instead of just one parent, reduce the in-state minor abortion rate by approximately 31%. According to the pro-abortion think tank the Guttmacher Institute, 37 states have parental involvement laws.
Often portrayed as a safe medical practice, abortion has harmed millions of women across the United States. These invasive procedures scar the lining of the uterus, damage the cervix and other internal organs, lead to eating disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, and even death. Complications from botched surgeries have resulted in hysterectomies, ending girls' chances ever to have children of their own later in life. To have an abortion is not a decision that should be made alone or without guidance from someone invested in their personal well-being.
Protecting minors from physical, mental, and emotional damage should be at the forefront of the policy debate. However, the assertion that parental engagement laws puts young women in dangerous or abusive situations incorrectly portrays and misunderstands the process of verification in parental consent.
A blueprint for healthcare that values and strengthens the lives of mothers and children is a good idea. It won’t be achieved if we cut the ties that the family creates. The real question is who can be better trusted to help a child in times of intense physical, psychological, or emotional distress, those who have devoted their lives to a child or those whose goal is to make a sale?
Ryan Neuhaus is the Florida Regional Coordinator of Students for Life of America