Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Some Questions for Kelly Ayotte

Kelly Ayotte is New Hampshire's attorney-general; she is arguing before the Supreme Court in favor of restoring a law passed by her state mandating that parents be notified in writing 48 hours before a pregnant teenage girl can have an abortion.

Don't think for a minute that Ms. Ayotte wants a parental notification law because she opposes abortion and wants to make it more difficult for pregnant teenage girls to get one. That's not her motivation at all. What she is trying to do is "provide pregnant minors with the benefit of parental guidance and assistance in exercising what is undoubtedly a difficult choice."

That's undoubtedly sweet of Ayotte, and she can certainly provide that parental guidance and assistance to her own teenage daughter, but how can she provide parental guidance and assistance to teenage girls of whom she is not the parent? And what makes her think that the pregnant teenagers of New Hampshire will not avail themselves of their parents' guidance and assistance on their own -- assuming they have parents who have raised them to believe they can trust their parents to guide and assist them with a crisis pregnancy? And if a pregnant teenager's parents have not instilled that level of trust in their child, what leads Ms. Ayotte to conclude that appropriate parental guidance and assistance will be forthcoming?

There is only one exception to the New Hampshire law's requirement that parents be notified before an abortion can be performed: If the pregnant girl's life is in immediate danger without an abortion. But there is no exemption if the pregnancy threatens the girl's health -- and this is the heart of the case.

To this, Ayotte responds assuringly that, first, the state will indemnify doctors who perform abortions " 'in that rare circumstance' when a teenager needs an abortion to protect her health"; and second, the law's judicial bypass provision adequately protects the mother in a health emergency:

The state argued that the health of the mother is adequately protected by a provision that allows a judge to bypass parental notification if he concludes that "the pregnant minor is mature and capable of giving informed consent" or that the "pregnant minor's best interests would be served by waiving the notification requirement."

The first response is a "Trust us, we're the government" argument. Doctors are supposed to assume that the state will agree with their medical expertise -- and obviously the state doesn't; because if it did, it would not be substituting its own judgment for a medical professional's judgment to begin with. It's precisely because the state does not want abortion to be a private matter between a woman and her physician that this law was passed.

The second response is just laughable. If New Hampshire does not trust the professional medical judgment of a pregnant girl's doctor that she needs an abortion to protect her health, why would they trust a judge to know more about medicine and a particular girl's health than her own doctor does? I mean, that just makes no sense at all.

But then, nothing about the government trying to force its way into private decisions and thinking it can mandate familial love and trust makes sense.

1 comment:

Christopher King said...

So it's the Ayotte-knows-best argument, huh? I wonder if she knows best in my case, where an underlying in a bogus Unauthorized Practice of Law case is trying to nail me with tainted evidence.

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