Monday, January 24, 2011

Do You Know Who's Talking to Your Pregnant Teen?

Here's a thought-provoking article:
When you sent your teen to off to school today, you worried that she would fail her test, bomb her audition for the school play, or cut out of gym class to see her boyfriend. You never thought that while in the hallowed

halls of academia, she would be convinced to take her baby and run away from your loving home on the advice of her guidance counselor. Yet that's exactly what happened to Judy Bennett.

Stephanie Bennett was a 17 year old mother and student, living at home in Ohio with her supportive mom and step-dad when she revealed concerns about motherhood to guidance counselor Thomas Saltsman. Instead of bolstering her confidence and encouraging her in her role as a parent, he immediately arranged for her to meet with A Child's Waiting adoption agency on school grounds, during school hours.

Days after their first meeting and feeling pressured to "do the right thing" by her daughter, Stephanie took baby Evelyn and ran away from home. Hours later, she signed the paperwork allowing the agency to take her daughter away.
I've long been concerned about the fact that minors are allowed to relinquish their parental rights without their parents knowing.  A child can go through labor and delivery without her parents knowing.  That's very different from how we treat the abortion decision by minors.  In most states, a minor cannot have an abortion without her parents being notified unless she goes to court first to get judicial approval.

One frequent argument for parental notification in teen abortions is that parents ought to know about medical procedures performed on their children.  What about childbirth by their minor children?  Shouldn't parents know about that?  The risk of death and medical complications is greater with childbirth than with abortion, after all.

The other popular argument rests on the significance of the decision -- deciding whether to have an abortion is such an important thing that minors ought to have the advice of grown-ups in making the decision.  Parents can serve in that role, and if there is some reason why they should not be notified, then a judge can evaluate whether a minor is sufficiently mature to make the decision on her own.  Why don't we do the same for another extremely important and significant decision, whether to terminate parental rights and place a child for adoption?

So engage in a little thought experiment if you have girl children.  Imagine that your 15-year-old is pregnant.  She is considering her options.  Who do you want to be talking to her about her choices?  A set of prospective adoptive parents who answer her "what should I do" question on Yahoo Answers?  An adoption agency whose pamphlet she found in the guidance counselor's office?  Or YOU?


Reena said...

There are so many things grossly wrong IMO!

The counsellor should have called the parents-- unless a situation involves abuse on the part of a parent-- school counsellors should always call the parents! I'd call an attorney about that!

I really don't understand how a minors signautre on the adoption papers can be valid--even though she is the mother or father. They are minors! Minors are not allowed to soley have a checking account because their signature is not completely binding! Or has that changed? Am I out of it?

We never really considered domestic newborn adoption. It hasn't been until this past year that I leared more about the *counselling* young woman received who are experiencing an unplanned PG. I had always thought that being counselled about one's options included exactly that-- a discussion about the resources available for abortion, adoption, and keeping and raising the baby.

I've since learned that such counselling is largely counselling to place a baby for adoption and not counselling about all of the options. It is really disturbing.

The fact that a school counsellor would do what this person did is beyond disturbing!

DannieA said...

I live in one of those states that a teen can get an abortion without parental consent. I think that's wrong...but mostly looking at it because it's a medical procedure and all medical procedures are a risk.

This scenario is also appalling...I about wanted to curse at the screen. If I were that parent, I'd sue, everyone involved. I'd hope that in case my daughter ever were to get pregnant as a teen (and I hope not, but sometimes it happens) that she would know that I'd never abandon her or make ultimatums and would make it possible for her to parent...which I know I've been slammed hard for saying that, but guess what I would! This is why I hope this situation never happens...oiy!

Anonymous said...

I work in healthcare and in my state (and probably many or most others), once a minor is pregnant and intends on having a child, she is not a minor (legally) any more and can make all her medical decisions for herself and her child. Because of the medical privacy laws in effect now (HIPPA), health care providers can NOT reveal any medical information about a patient to anyone, including family members, unless the patient gives us permission to do so, or we can be sued. This is the law for us. Perhaps similar issues of privacy apply to the counselor. I understand adoptive parents wanting to have some control in this situation, after all I am one. But the reality is the child is legally not a minor and can legally make these decisions.

malinda said...

Thanks for the info from a health care provider's perspective. How odd that becoming pregnant and intending an abortion doesn't emancipate a minor, but becoming pregnant and planning to bring the pregnancy to term does! But it's also not exactly the law of the land that a pregnant teen is emancipated.

I've heard that before, that being pregnant means emancipation of a minor; legally, that's just plain not true, at least in Texas. While a parenting minor is legally responsible for her child, her parents are still legally responsible for her until she is 18. Only marriage, permission to enter military, and court order can emancipate a minor legally.

Reena said...

If a minor is no longer considered a minor when she becomes PG and does not need to talk with her parents to place the baby for adoption-- then said minor should not have to get permission from parents to have an abortion either!

Seriously? How does this type of law make sense? It is a double standard if this is really the situaiton.