North Dakota teens need parents' permission to take care of their babies

Legislature rejects bill allowing minors confidential prenatal treatment.

Published March 28, 2007 2:46PM (EDT)

Just wanted to make sure you didn't miss this one. You know how they don't want teenagers to have abortions? Apparently they don't want them to have healthy babies, either. At least not in North Dakota, where -- as BitchPh.D., the American Prospect's TAPPED and others have reported -- the Legislature has rejected a bill that would have allowed teenagers to seek prenatal care without a parent's permission. Right. Not a typo: prenatal care, not abortion. As it stands, doctors there now need permission from a parent or guardian to treat pregnant minors.

Well, folks. Looks like we're going to have to shelve our favorite old quip about how antiabortion conservatives "care about the baby until it's born!" No matter what her plans for the pregnancy, if a teen is going to tell her parents about it, she's going to tell her parents. If she isn't (to the degree she can hide a pregnancy), she likely has good reason not to. So, do you think this law will a) "foster teen-parent communication," or b) deter teens at risk from seeking prenatal care in the first place? Yeah. That's good for the baby. To say nothing of ironic: You aren't responsible enough to become a parent ... without your parents!

Ann Friedman at TAPPED also raises this point: "If a teenage girl faces very little support at home for keeping her pregnancy -- which, presumably, is the reason she would keep this info from her parents -- then you would think anti-abortion activists would be in favor of this legislation. After all, they love to publicize cases where parents have coerced their daughters into abortions. You would think that this legislation would prevent that from happening." Yep. You would think that if a pregnant teen said, "I'd like some prenatal care," they would be the people saying, "Need a ride?"

But instead they're saying things like this. "Vast generations have been born without the type of medical care and prenatal care that we have today," observed Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, who I trust is also aware that vast generations have been born without electricity. "It's great that people get the treatment early, but we don't need to do something that is going to take away the authority of the parents, who are responsible for paying the bills." ) But ... I ... he ... never mind.

North Dakota law, by the way, "already allows children 14 years old and older to seek confidential treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, alcoholism or drug addiction," as the Tribune notes. Huh. A majority of other states do expressly permit confidential prenatal care for minors. (Meanwhile, the N.D. House has recently passed one of those abortion bans that will take effect if Roe v. Wade goes -- the extra-special kind with no exception for rape or incest. Watch for the Senate vote later this week.)

Scariest part is, this action, unlike the Texas proposal to pay pregnant women $500 to carry their babies to term and then offer them for adoption, is not an evil circus stunt designed to get people riled up. It's groupthink based on fear -- of teen girls, of sex, of teen girls having sex, of teen girls having control. But its effects, on young women and their babies, are and will be all too real.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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