Thursday, March 09, 2006

Study: Texas parental law lowers teen abortion

From The Houston Chronicle:
Texas' rate of teen abortions fell after the state enacted a parental notification law, a new study found, but researchers also discovered an increase in the likelihood that girls nearly 18 will delay abortions so they don't have to tell their parents.

The study, conducted by researchers at Baruch College at City University of New York, found girls 17 1/2 or slightly older were 34 percent more likely to have an abortion in the much riskier second trimester than girls already 18 when they became pregnant.

The findings were published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Texas, the largest and most populous of the 35 states to enforce a parental involvement law, was chosen for the study because of its size and diverse population and because most girls live far from states that don't require parental involvement.

After notification became law in Texas, the study shows, abortion rates among teens ages 15-17 fell 11 percent to 20 percent more than the rate among 18-year-olds, who were not affected by the law.

The study acknowledges that abortion rates and birth rates among teens have been declining nationally and in Texas since 1991. Lead researcher Ted Joyce said researchers tried to compensate for that by subtracting the drop in abortion rates among 18-year-olds — 7 percent — from the rate among the younger girls.

Researchers based their findings on birth and abortion certificates from 1998-1999, the two years before parental notification became law, and rates from 2000 to 2002, after the law was enacted.

[…] Joyce, who said he supports abortion rights, hopes the study spotlights what he calls the adverse outcomes — later abortions and more unintended childbearing — of parental involvement laws.

"It's a public health issue and we should worry about it," he said. "If we really want to avoid abortions we should help kids avoid pregnancies."

How can anyone possibly be surprised by this? Do they honestly believe that large numbers of parents, once informed, wouldn’t try to help their daughters keep the baby? The fact that they might be unhappy with a child's actions isn't going to make them stop loving her.

I am particularly struck by the “adverse outcomes.” “Later abortions” means that girls who are close to 18 wait until they are no longer under the notification law, then seek an abortion without telling their parents. In other words, they want an abortion and don’t want to take the chance that anyone might talk them out of it. That is truly a sad situation, but I’m not at all sure what can be done about it, short of convincing kids that mom and dad aren’t the enemy. (I know – on rare occasions, mom and dad are the enemy. The notification laws all have provisions for special cases.)

As to the horrors of “unintended childbearing,” I’m not even sure what that means. Until a few decades ago, you could make the case that all childbearing was to some extent “unintended,” in that it was virtually impossible to exercise control over the process. Childbearing is the result of having sex; I am aware of only one exception to that general rule, and it occurred quite some time ago. Why should the fact that a baby is unintended condemn it to death?