Supporters of Measure 43, a bill that would require doctors to give parents written notification 48 hours before performing an abortion on a minor, claim that it will encourage pregnant teens to seek support, while opponents contend that it will put vulnerable teens at greater risk.
A similar measure failed by a narrow margin in 1990. This time around, proponents of parental notification are hoping that in an age when teens and parents are more educated and willing to talk about sexual issues, Oregon will have a different reception to the idea. “It’s a different generation,” said Sarah Nashif, board member of the Keep Our Daughters Safe campaign committee. “Teens are more comfortable talking about sex, and there has been a lot more research done about abortion and what it does to affect the female body.”
The law would not require consent from parents, only that they be notified. To avoid parental notification in potentially dangerous situations, teens can opt for a judicial bypass, in which they would plead their case to a judge.
”They will be forced to navigate a bureaucratic maze instead of getting advice from a medical professional,” said Nancy Bennett, board member of the “No on 43” committee. Proponents of Measure 43 maintain that the judicial bypass, by giving teens the opportunity to report rape or incest to the authorities, would be a way to help endangered teens out of bad situations.
”The doctor performing the abortion in secret just sends [the teen] right back into the situation she came from, but [the judicial bypass] gives her a streamlined connection to the appropriate authorities,” Nashif said. The process would take a maximum of seven days and could be conducted over the phone.
Bennett maintains that this process will not increase the likelihood of endangered teens finding help. “Doctors are mandatory reporters. If they even suspect abuse, they are required to tell authorities. Measure 43 doesn’t improve the lines of communication for these teens. It puts up a barrier. A vulnerable teen is better off making decisions about her health with a doctor than on the phone with a stranger,” Bennett said.
Parental-notification laws are in place in 35 other states.
Melody Rose, an associate professor at Portland State, has conducted research on the effect of these laws. Her studies indicate that pregnant teens in these states tend to delay seeking medical care.
”There is no evidence that these laws help teens,” said Bennett.
The abortion and teen pregnancy rates in Oregon have declined dramatically in the past two decades. Researchers attribute this to better education about sex and more access to contraception.
A chief concern on both sides is ensuring that teens don’t delay seeking medical care and wait until late in their pregnancy to seek an abortion. “The wait-time involved won’t force anyone into a third trimester,” said Nashif.
The chief petitioners of the measure are a mother and daughter who have dealt first-hand with the abortion process as it now stands in Oregon. By putting this measure on the ballot, they hope to help teens get their parents involved with such an important health decision in order to provide support.
”Teens need parental consent to get their ears pierced. Why shouldn’t parents be notified about a traumatic medical procedure like an abortion?” said Nashif.
Bennett said that there are other reliable means of support and counseling for pregnant teens through organizations like Outside In, which provides support to homeless teens, and Planned Parenthood.