A Minor Double Standard
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A Minor Double Standard

August 11, 2011, 4:30 pm
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Allowing abortions to minors without parental consent weakens the foundations of the family
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By Reynold N. Mason

Atlanta, Aug.10, 2011.   Last week a mother was arrested in Rock Hill, North Carolina and charged for giving alcohol to her son. The drinking took place during a birthday party at home.  The mother now faces a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This kind of law enforcement bends the law to   the point of absurdity and tramples  upon the discretion and authority of parents in raising their children.

    Astounding and disingenuous legal excuses

 With children there is a specific identifiable tradition of parental control. Children have traditionally been treated as a protected class by our society.  Until age 18 generally, a child by law remains under the control of his parents. The legal gymnastics employed by the courts to fashion  rationales  for permitting minors to have abortions without parental input are as astounding as they are disingenuous. While agreeing that the power of the state is greater over children than over adults, the Supreme Court has nonetheless struck down a ban on the sale of contraceptives to minors, saying it does not measurably contribute to deterrent purpose of discouraging sexual activity, and would subject minors to increased risk of pregnancy. We don’t abolish bans on the sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors simply because children find a ways to drink and smoke in spite of the bans.  Under this rational supplying needles to drug addicts could not be outlawed because it would expose the addicts to greater risk of infection and disease

It does not take a genius to know that the vast majority of parents go to great lengths to secure the welfare of their children. In most instances parents trying to do what is best for their children have the blessing of the government. So why do the courts torture the law to allow authorities to meddle in family matters and criminalize this mother who was celebrating a special occasion with her son? The Rock Hill Police Department should concern itself with fighting real crime rather than spending time and taxpayer’s money sticking their noses into family matters.  The moral soundness of our minor children is not the business of the police or the law makers who enable them. Good, bad, right and wrong are taught children by parents. When the state pokes its legislative nose into the home, it is stepping into an area reserved for parents and guardians.

A Slippery Slope

No one doubts that children are a valuable resource and ought to be raised to become responsible citizens. But the state has no business dictating people’s morality. That is a slippery slope. Not long ago homosexuality, adultery and fornication were against the law even thought these involved acts between consenting adults done in private. And not too long ago, all forms of promiscuity and illicit sexual relations, whether premarital or extramarital were forbidden. Today, no one can imagine a philandering husband being hauled off in handcuffs for fooling around. We have come to understand that one’s morals are his business and no one else’s. These laws have now gone out of fashion, being revoked or fallen into desuetude. Yet despite the absence of legal sanction, no parent would teach a child that sexual promiscuity or infidelity in marriage is appropriate.   It is not respect for the law or fear of punishment that impels parents to do right by their children. It is their own sense of right and wrong, good and bad.

Immature and Irresponsible

In recognizing the immaturity and irresponsibility of minors almost all states prohibit certain activities to minors. We do not allow our children to make important decisions unless we think they are sufficiently mature.  Laws in every state place limits on marriage for minors and on their sexuality. A minor cannot legally consent to sex, cannot vote and are allowed to disaffirm contracts signed before they are adults. Minors cannot purchase tobacco or alcohol and cannot gamble.  They are denied admission to some the movies unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.  There is an entire system of juvenile justice whose purpose is to keep minors separate from adult offenders. If a minor must be incarcerated it must be in a facility separate from adults. All of these restrictions are intended to protect the health safety and morals of young people. Yet all of the solicitude and legal restrictions are cast aside when a young woman seeks an abortion.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly give minors the authority to consent to contraceptive services, and twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia specifically allow pregnant minors to the obtain prenatal care and delivery services without parental consent or notification. The Title X federal family planning program, which supports clinics that provide contraceptive service and other reproductive health care to minors on a confidential basis and without the need for parental consent or notification, has seen efforts made by Congress to require consent or notification before a minor receives these services. All of these efforts, the most recent in 1998, have failed.  

.                                   A nod to the pro choice movement

The court has allowed minors to obtain abortions without notice to or input from parents by the expedient of judicial bypass; the minor demonstrates to a judge that she is sufficiently mature to make an abortion decision herself—a convenient way of concealing from parents behavior that is against the rules.  This is a nod to the pro choice movement. Proving maturity cannot get a minor a six pack at the corner store, or a pass into a Vegas casino, but it is enough to get her an abortion. The same young woman who can obtain an abortion without her parents’ consent by proving her maturity, cannot consent to sex. And the man who got her pregnant is still subject to a charge of statutory rape.

        The Double standard is evident

In a recent case the court said that minors are impulsive and more susceptible to manipulation. “…a lack of maturity and underdeveloped sense of responsibility,” said the court, “are found in youth more often than in adults…..these qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions.” In recognizing the irresponsibility and immaturity of minors, the Supreme Court in 2005, prohibited the death penalty for minors.  From those words it is clear that the court views juveniles as categorically less culpable than the average criminal. For the same reason the court should prohibit abortion for minors without parental consent. In the court’s own words “youth is more than a chronological fact.  It is a time and condition of life when a person may be more susceptible to influence, psychological damage and outside pressures… Juveniles have less control and less experience with control over their environment…. The character of juveniles is not well formed as that of an adult, their personality traits are more transitory and because of these, the penal law applies with lesser force.” Those views are still consistent with our understanding of today’s youth, and this rational should prevent young women from getting an abortion without their parent’s knowledge or consent. These same reasons, which justify the need for parental consent to an appendectomy, are more than enough to justify banning abortions for minors without parental consent.



Author: Reynold Mason
Reynold N. Mason teaches law courses at Zenover Educational Institute In Atlanta, Georgia. He has been a judge on New York City Civil Court and, a Justice on New York State Supreme Court. Mason has been an adjunct professor of law at Medgar Evers College and Monroe College in New York. He has authored several legal opinions published in New York Miscellaneous Reports and New York Official Reports as well as the New York Law Journal. He lives in Atlanta.
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