Tag Archives: parents

Should parents be informed of their daughters’ abortions?

Or worse, should they have power of veto? The subject has been raised in New Zealand recently, and some of the things that are being said just utterly horrify me.

I was raised in a household where abortions were just absolutely off the table. So when I found myself pregnant at 16, it was never even an option. I carried my child, and I raised her. To be honest, I don’t really know what my parents would have wanted me to do – the strength of the religion that had been pounded into me meant that I went blindly forward with what I believed was God’s will, and damned if I was going to listen to anything that didn’t mesh with my ideas of right and wrong. I was the sort of person that I would be ashamed to raise – dogged and dogmatic and unthinking and narrow-minded. But that is then.

If I had elected to have an abortion, then I do not know if my father and stepmother, who were the only family I had around, would have approved. I strongly suspect that things would not have gone well for me had that been my choice (not that things went smoothly for me anyway, but that’s not the point). Mine is not a good example of what could go wrong for vulnerable pregnant girls, though. I was already responsible for myself, living out of home, and generally not supported by my family. Things were not going to get dramatically worse for me,

If I had been at home though, and relying on my very religious family, then them finding out about me making the hypothetical ┬ádecision to have an abortion could have landed me out of home. No, worse than that – if it was not already a done deal, I would have been pressured out of it, or outright forbidden to go through with it. My body was not my own, you see. It belonged to God and whoever God delegated his authority to. So in a religious setting, informing the parents is not a safe thing to do.

Parents like to think that they have a right to know what their teenage daughter does with her body. But they have to acknowledge that she has choices, and agency, and they cannot control her or dictate to her for the long-term, so letting go in the short term is necessary and healthy. Giving her knowledge, information, and power over her own body is the best thing they can do for their child.

One comment that just left me floored was “maybe the father of the baby should have a choice – he may want the baby” . . . I’m sorry, are you kidding me? It’s her body. Not his. Until he can be pregnant and give birth in her place, he doesn’t actually get a say in what she chooses to do unless she wants him to. Basic bodily autonomy 101 here, kids. It’s not the father’s choice. It’s not the parents’ choice. It’s up to the girl – and only the girl.

I have two daughters of my own, and one of them is just hitting puberty. I understand the impulse to control and to guard and to protect, but it’s impulse that does no one any justice. Build your relationship with your girl. Build trust and love and acceptance, so that she knows that if things go awry she can come to you. Let her know what you would do in such a situation – tell her up-front that you will support her in whatever way you see fit, whether that’s that you would support an abortion but not a baby or vice versa, or whether you would be there for her and do everything you can for her no matter what she chooses in a situation like that. Educate her so she knows how biology works, how to stay safe and healthy, and support her to get whatever contraceptives she needs.

Maybe I’m being idealistic, and maybe I’ll feel different about my girls as they grow, but I don’t think so. I want to trust them and empower them in a way that I never was, so they can make these sorts of decisions, about love and sex and abortion and parenthood and growing up, with their eyes wide open.

I was a teen mother. I also had an abortion when my daughter was less than a year old, because I couldn’t cope with two under two. I never told my husband that, because he was part of the religious tradition that condemned such things – but I did what was right for my physical and mental health. I have walked both roads, and I would hold my child’s hand down whichever one they chose, if it came to that.

Post this if your parent is X

I see them quite often, images saying things like ‘Post if your dad is hardworking and has helped and supported you no matter what’ or ‘Share this if your mom is your best friend, and your biggest supporter’. They’re kinda sweet really, posted by people who are inordinately proud of their parents.

What about the rest of us? Whose parents aren’t superheroes, who have very human flaws, ones that can’t be papered over with a smile? The reminder of what we lack can be painful.

My mum is pretty awesome, she’s always in my corner. We get along well, and she’s always there for me. She’s cool.

My dad is another matter. He’s a good man, hardworking and caring and lovely. But he’s not a strong man, and he’s in a relationship with a very strong woman (and I don’t mean that in a good way). The result of that is that my father is not here for me. He hasn’t been allowed to be since he married my stepmother. His pliant personality is submerged below her hard and cruel one. He’s not in my corner, not on my side, and very nearly not in my life. I hate that. I want him to have time with his grandkids, to sit with him and chat and catch up on life. That’s taken away from me, partly by my stepmother, but also by his inability to assert himself. It makes me sad.

My father is precious to me. I love him so much. But I can’t have his company. It breaks my heart. He’s not everything I want him to be – not even close.

What would be ‘everything I want him to be’? I’m not demanding. I just want him to be there for me. Is that too much? Maybe it is.

So every time I see one of these images float past, I have a catch in my throat. I want my father to be all that.