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Not Looking Away

05/15/02 12:00AM By Libby Sternberg
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(Host) As the legislature approaches adjournment, a bill dealing with Parental Notification is one that may remain unresolved, but commentator Libby Sternberg has determined her own stand on the subject.

(Sternberg) I consider myself pro-choice, not wanting to roll back Roe v. Wade. I'm supportive of a woman's right to control her own body. But I must admit there are times when I wonder if my pro-choice sentiments spring less from a principled stand on the issue and more from a lack of moral courage.

I AM willing to take a hard look at reasonable restrictions on abortion. Parental notification is one of them, and chances are that a parental notification bill will stall in the state senate this year, after being passed by the House.

Even abortion providers have testified about the desirability of having parents involved when minor girls seek the procedure, so it's tough for me to understand why abortion rights absolutists win the day on this one in a state where so many people like to think of themselves as "moderates."

A moderate approach to abortion legislation, it seems to me, would be to keep the door open to a woman's right to choose, but to also make sure parents of minor girls are invited in the room. In fact, for virtually any other medical procedure performed on a minor girl, health care providers would have to receive PERMISSION from the parents. The parental notification bill merely requires parents be TOLD of the abortion procedure.

An article entitled "Protecting Our Daughters" recently appeared in the Vermont Law Review magazine. In it, lawyer Teresa Stanton Collett argues that the parental notification bill "benefits Vermont minors through improved medical care and protection from sexual assault." The bill contains a judicial bypass provision which allows girls to petition a court to keep the abortion secret.

It seems counterintuitive to me, to think that daughters actually benefit from not having their parents' counsel. Parental notification, as Collett points out, would allow parents to help their daughters in the selection of an abortion provider. Parents would be able to help provide medical history to the provider. And finally, parents would be able to help the girl determine if she was having post-abortion complications.

How often we hear the lament that parents aren't involved enough with their children's lives, and if they were, school outcomes would improve, juvenile delinquency and drug use would decline, and other youth violence would be avoided. Yet in this important area of a girl's life, parents are deliberately shut out of the picture in Vermont.

Forty-three states have parental involvement laws. These aren't radical or extreme. They're moderate, common sense approaches.

This is Libby Sternberg from Rutland

Libby Sternberg is a free-lance writer, former chair of the Rutland County Republican Party, and is active in education issues.

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