You might want to skip this post (about abortion). Need help? In New Zealand, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or Youthline on 0800 37 66 33.
A Tauranga schoolgirl had an abortion “arranged” by a school counselor without her parents’ knowledge. Her mum, angry at not being informed, spoke to the media. This promoted calls for girls under 16 to require parental consent to go through with an abortion. Under the Care of Children Act there is no age restriction to give consent to an abortion. In 2004, then opposition MP Judith Collins tried to change this, but it didn’t pass.
Youthline rightly says that everyone should have access to confidential health services regardless of their age. They say that it can’t be assumed that the family home is a safe and loving place. They stress the importance of youth having a strong support network, which may include a counselor who they can talk to in confidence. There’s a risk that vulnerable youth won’t reach out if they fear that their parents will be told. Talking with a counselor about a pregnancy doesn’t mean that a girl won’t talk with her parents about it, she might just need some reassurance first. Not wanting her parents involved doesn’t mean a girl is going it alone. Maybe she feels more comfortable talking with a friend’s mother, the father’s parents or other extended family and that should be okay.
Deborah Coddington says:
“I’ve been on a board of trustees of a large Auckland school and I’ve seen how some girls were treated by their parents when it was thought they had brought shame on the family. They were physically punished, sometimes to the extent CYFS had to be notified.”
Maybe those calling for this change have a bigger target in mind—discouraging abortions all together. If the parents are informed, maybe the hope is that they will put a stop to the abortion.
Garth George cites a dubious study by Dr Priscilla Coleman that claims there is a link between abortion and mental health:
…a thoroughly scientific study in 2006 by Dr Priscilla Coleman, a research psychologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, refuted a long-standing contention that teenagers are better able to handle an abortion than dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.
The study found that adolescent girls who had an abortion were five times more likely to seek help for psychological and emotional problems than those who kept their babies.
The study also found that teenagers who had abortions instead of carrying the pregnancy to term were also more than three times more likely to report subsequent trouble sleeping, and nine times more likely to report subsequent drug use.
Dr Coleman pointed out that, while having a child as a teen might be problematic, “the risks of terminating seem to be even more pronounced”.
“The scientific evidence is now strong and compelling. Abortion poses more risks to women than giving birth.”
Trying to replicate Dr Coleman’s results, researchers concluded:
Because of the potential for confounding, published research claiming to find relations between abortion and poor mental health indicators should be subjected to scrutiny and reanalysis. Using the same data and conducting the same analyses as CCSR (2009), we found that their results were not replicable, nor did our numbers approach theirs in the case of 15 mental health disorders. Moreover, we found little support for the abortion-as-trauma framework. Instead, our findings suggest that structural, psychological, and sociodemographic risk factors associated with both having an abortion and having poor mental health drive a relationship between abortion and mental health. Therefore, policy, practice, and research should focus on addressing the correlates of having mental health problems, such as violence and prior mental health problems.
“We were unable to reproduce the most basic tabulations of Coleman and colleagues,” Steinberg said in a statement released with the paper. “Moreover, their findings were logically inconsistent with other published research — for example, they found higher rates of depression in the last month than other studies found during respondents’ entire lifetimes. This suggests that the results were substantially inflated.” (via)
“…the TFMHA [Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion] reviewed no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.” (via)
What life will an unwanted baby have? What is its future? What is the mother’s future? How likely is it that a cycle of teen pregnancy will start?
It’s up to parents to keep lines of nonjudgmental communication open with their children, to be involved with them and to talk with them, but parents should be grateful that their children don’t have to rely on their peers for advice and that there are professionals accessible to their children that they can talk with about things that they don’t feel like they can talk with their parents about.
Image credit: Tanya Little