Pregnancy and Maturity

Andrew Oh-Willeke at Colorado Confidential reports on the Colorado Court of Appealsí refusal to waive the parental notification requirement for a pregnant 16-year-old who wants to get an abortion (via RH Reality Check). He lays out the situation:

She was sixteen years and a half years old, and was about ten weeks pregnant at the time of her hearing in the case She lives with her mother, her brother, and her brother’s child whom her mother is raising. Her father is dead. We know that the woman doesn’t get along well with or communicate much with her mother, and that her mother has been emphatic in approving of the woman for not getting pregnant.

She:

knew that abortion carried risks and that “you could die from having it, but its rare,” she had not considered any mental or emotional ramifications of abortion other than that it might lead to her “becoming depressed or something like that.” She conceded that she “might regret” having had the abortion but reiterated that she had made up her mind to do so. [She] also stated that she would not change her mind.

She also said that she “was obtaining prenatal care and that she understood that she could continue to receive such care.”

She also told the court that in her opinion she was “too young to have a child, that the child would not ‘have a dad,’ and that she did not have a job.”

The pregnant minor’s burden of proof was to either show by clear and convincing evidence that she was mature enough to make the decision, or by a preponderance of the evidence that notification was not in her best interests.

Leaving aside the bizarre notion that someone can be too immature to make a decision about terminating her pregnancy yet mature enough to bring a child into the world, Iíd say this young woman sounds fairly mature. She appears to understand the implications of having an abortion and of having a child, and to be confident in her own decision-making ability.

But what did the court have to say? (Emphasis added.)

After the hearing the judge found that “she lacked the maturity to decide whether to have an abortion.” The court emphasized her “unwillingness to communicate with her mother or consult with other adults, her focus on her own needs, and her failure to discuss the matter with a doctor.” The trial court also felt that she had “only minimal understanding of the risks of the abortion procedure” and that she was “unemployed and being supported by her mother.”

Her focus on her own needs is a strike against her? Are the needs of a 13-week-old fetus, or of the young womanís mother or boyfriend, somehow more important than the needs of the person who will be taking on a minimum of nine months of risk and responsibility? Pregnancy is not a risk-free proposition. Itís not unusual for pregnant women in the U.S. to die from the complications of pregnancy, or from homicide (often at the hands of the father-to-be). And then, unless she gives the child up for adoption, sheís also responsible for raising it for the next 18 years. Iíd say her needs are paramount. But the courts donít seem to agree, and thatís a very scary thing.

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