Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When is a “parent” so messed up it should be ignored on issue of abortion?

It will be interesting to see how the medical “experts” who are with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation behave when they meet Wednesday to discuss the never-popular issue of abortion.

The law of Illinois in recent years has been that females under 18 who become pregnant and try to terminate it need to have proof that they told their parents of their desire. Political people who pushed for that law did so out of a belief that the parents in most cases would prevent an abortion from taking place.

BUT IN PART because this law was created under such blatant political partisanship, there has been a reluctance to enforce it.

The law itself has been on hold ever since it was enacted by the General Assembly and former Gov. Jim Edgar (who himself generally favored a woman’s right to choose when it came to abortion).

Various lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for northern Illinois (we’re talking about the judges at the Dirksen Building) kept this from being enforced, although a federal injunction on the issue was lifted during the summer.

In theory, the law has been on hold on the belief that there was no clear-cut procedure by which pregnant girls seeking an abortion could show they had notified their parents, or by which doctors would have to provide the notification.

IN SHORT, IT was confusing. So nothing was done. Until now.

The partisans who want to reduce the number of abortions that can be done by imposing such severe restrictions that it becomes next to impossible for many women to get one are sick of waiting.

They have been pushing for enforcement. Their demand, plus the lifting of the federal injunction, is what caused officials originally to say they would start doing such enforcement this autumn. At one point, it was thought that the law would take effect this week (the beginning of November).

For now, the law is on hold at least until the Wednesday meeting scheduled to take place at the professional regulation (the state agency that disciplines doctors in malpractice cases) offices at the Thompson Center state government building in Chicago.

WE’LL HAVE TO see if the state Professional Regulation Department’s medical disciplinary board decides to give in to the desires of the anti-abortion lobby (which is rather outspoken, although like most entities that try to intimidate through verbal means, ultimately full of hot air when one pays close attention to what they actually say), or keeps a hold on the process.

A significant part of the problem on this issue is that it likely is impossible to come up with a procedure by which parents would be “informed” of their daughters’ desire to terminate a pregnancy.

That’s actually the key here. We’re not talking about “consent,” which some states have and which anti-abortion activists in Illinois fantasize about having some day.

Ultimately, we’re talking about a medical procedure, which means that denying it to someone is probably a more immoral act than any anti-abortion activist believes the abortion itself is.

PLUS, THERE PROBABLY is no way to ensure that notification can be done without causing more significant problems.

The problem amounts to the cases of less-than-pristine family situations where a parent being informed of the girl’s pregnancy would exacerbate the problem. To be blunt, we’re talking about cases where incest could be involved, and with parents whose potential handling of the situation would be less-than-ideal.

I remember the days when this argument always would include putting a provision into the law by which girls could get out of telling their parents of their desire for an abortion, if they could convince a judge that such notification would cause a problem

That might sound like a sensible alternative, even though I realize it means putting young girls who might not be completely aware of their legal rights into the position of having to get themselves an attorney and deal with the courts.

OF COURSE, TO the anti-abortion types, that is a bad alternative because they could see girls actually using the option to get the abortion anyway. And their bottom line isn’t about protecting a parent’s rights or a family situation – it’s about making abortion next to impossible to obtain.

It is similar to the way they complain about the late-term abortions done in the final trimester in cases where the presence of a fetus threatens the mother’s health. The activists always want to claim that letting a medical doctor make a medical judgment in such cases is some sort of legal loophole.

Better to put their morals, rather than a medical opinion, in charge of the situation. Let’s hope the state Professional Regulation officials have more sense than that. And it would be nice to see the General Assembly use its current partisan majority to undo the mess that was caused by their past incarnation in the two years when the Legislature was a GOP-dominated affair.


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