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A mixed Abortion/Healthcare Political Question

 
 
fishin
 
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 01:41 pm
Since some of you are from MA maybe you watched last night's debate bewteen the two main candidates for Govener. For those that aren't from MA I'd appreciate your overall views on teh issue as well.

As is typical in political debate today, the abortion issue was raised during a televised debate last night. One of the candidates stated that she, if elected, would propose legislation changing the state's abortion laws so that any female that has reached the age of consent for sexual activity could obtain an abortion without need of permission from anyone else. The age of consent in MA is 16 years old.

The existing MA state law requires that anyone under the age of 18 must have permission from at least one parent or a judge. They can NOT make this decision on their own.

The candidate's rationale was that if they are old enough to legally consent to sex then they should be able to consent to an abortion as well.

While that almost sounds logical, the legal age of consent for any other medical procedure would remain at age 18. If this proposal does come forth it would create a system where a 16 year old could make a decision to have an abortion but can't go and see a doctor on their own for a hangnail, cleaning of their teeth, or even an ear piercing.

I would also have some concerns about the financial liability created under this system. If a child of 16 can walk into a clinic and obtain an abortion but can't pay for it could her parents be held financialy liable? (A 16 year old can't normally enter a legally binding contract such as an agreement for medical services...). Could this be a case where a parent may get a bill for a medical procedure they didn't have a say in?

What are your views on the candidate's proposal?


(Edited to correct a few typos!)
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 6,802 • Replies: 37
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 01:48 pm
Just nibbling at the tail end of the question, but is it possible that pregnancy now becomes another basis for a person becoming an emancipated person? This is usually the case in the event of marriage. Anyway, I think 'emancipated person' is the term.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 01:53 pm
Well, that was never stated during the debate so I can't answer that directly roger. I didn't get that impression though.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 01:54 pm
Ooowhee! What a conundrum. I am not really sure what I think about this. I AM pro-choice, but this issue has so many legal ramifications.

Just off the top of my head, I think that the law needs to stay as it is. A girl under 16 IS a minor. The fact that a judge could approve the abortion, would take care of those cases where the girl absolutely could not discuss the issue with her parents.

I think that by making abortion an exception to the rule concerning consent for medical treatment, will open up a can of worms, that may be much too complex to sort out easily.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 02:01 pm
roger- The term that I have seen is "emancipated minor". I believe that this involves a minor who is living away from her parents, and supporting herself. In that case, I believe if she has been adjudged "emancipated", she can get her hangnail cut, or her nose shortened, without mommy & daddy's permission. Therefore, a new law would not change anything for her.

I think that most of the girls that would be involved if this new law was passed, are high school girls who are unable to communicate with their parents.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 02:21 pm
So there I go, shooting off at the mouth again. I found this law:


a. M.G.L. c. 231, § 85P provides that age 18 is the age of majority in the Commonwealth.
b. M.G.L. c. 112, § 12F defines individuals under 18 as emancipated minors if they are (i)
married, widowed or divorced; (ii) the parent of a child; (iii) a member of the armed
forces; (iv) pregnant or believes herself to be pregnant; (v) living separate and apart from
a parent/legal guardian and managing his or her own financial affairs; or (vi) under the
reasonable belief that he or she is suffering from or has come into contact with a disease
defined as dangerous to the public health.
c. If the individual is 18 or the EMT can determine that he or she is an emancipated minor,
the individual can make decisions as to his or her treatment or decline treatment.
Several of the emancipated minor categories will be difficult, if not impossible, to
determine in the field.
d. The EMT must clearly document in the trip record how the EMT derived the age or
emancipation status of the patient.


http://www.state.ma.us/dph/oems/minors~1.pdf



So it looks to me that if ANY girl is pregnant, she is automatically considered emancipated. I don't know where the one parent or the judge fits in.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 02:41 pm
Talk about a killer post, Phoenix.

If she has become an emancipated minor by becoming pregnant, that it seems to me that no other law of the Commonwealth should act to limit the privilages of that classification, and the proposal comes under my understanding of common-sense. Please don't anybody ask me if that includes the legal drinking age. 'Nother subject for another time, if ever.

I'm pro-choice too, but as a man I should probably keep my nose out of this one, and would if the rest of the guys would too.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 02:44 pm
roger- I beg to differ. Men are citizens, and, I.M.O. have the perfect right to voice their opinion on legal issues!
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 02:55 pm
fishin' - I'm sorry, but I didn't see the debate (yeah, I know, I'm misinformed!). You raise some interesting questions. Consent and abortion, are tricky topics. After all, if a judge becomes involved, everything turns very, very public - the kind of thing that would terrify most 15-year-old girls. And, if they can't communicate with their parents (I know I couldn't have, if I were in that situation at that age), then what's the alternative? Have a child to term? Go to a back-alley? Suicide? Most of these alternatives are not pleasant, and there may also be an issue of a right being denied.

Unlike voting (which has an age limit set by the state which, perhaps, is a little arbitrary but still enforceable), the biological facts are that 16-year-olds can become pregnant (heck, I could've become pregnant when I was 11, but that's not the point here) but otherwise the law doesn't recognize such girls as adults. The law Phoenix found is interesting - since this is the case, then isn't the discussion somewhat moot? You're pregnant? Well, then welcome to the world of adulthood! And, let's look at this from a boy's perspective - isn't the automatic emancipation of pregnant people the automatic exclusion of a protected class of people (males)? I'd argue re the constitutionality of the cited law.

By the way, I cross-posted your thread by - moving it to Medical News but keeping a shadow topic in Politics. fishin', as a Moderator, you can do this. :-D
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 02:56 pm
"Chapter 112: Section 12F. Emergency treatment of minors.

Section 12F. No physician, dentist or hospital shall be held liable for damages for failure to obtain consent of a parent, legal guardian, or other person having custody or control of a minor child, or of the spouse of a patient, to emergency examination and treatment, including blood transfusions, when delay in treatment will endanger the life, limb, or mental well-being of the patient.

Any minor may give consent to his medical or dental care at the time such care is sought if (i) he is married, widowed, divorced; or (ii) he is the parent of a child, in which case he may also give consent to medical or dental care of the child; or (iii) he is a member of any of the armed forces; or (iv) she is pregnant or believes herself to be pregnant; or (v) he is living separate and apart from his parent or legal guardian, and is managing his own financial affairs; or (vi) he reasonably believes himself to be suffering from or to have come in contact with any disease defined as dangerous to the public health pursuant to section six of chapter one hundred and eleven; provided, however, that such minor may only consent to care which relates to the diagnosis or treatment of such disease.


Consent shall not be granted under subparagraphs (ii) through (vi), inclusive, for abortion or sterilization."

(There is more to this section which can be found at http://www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/112-12F.htm).

The sections listed cover only consent for EMERGENCY treatment and do NOT cover abortions.

For roger, I too am pro-choice and I have no desire to see the current state laws allowing abortion eliminated. While abortion is a hot-button issue the idea that men have no business discussing it is simply foolish IMO. Women have no problem discussing laws concerning a father's child support obligations.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 03:14 pm
jespah wrote:
fishin' - I'm sorry, but I didn't see the debate (yeah, I know, I'm misinformed!). You raise some interesting questions. Consent and abortion, are tricky topics. After all, if a judge becomes involved, everything turns very, very public - the kind of thing that would terrify most 15-year-old girls. And, if they can't communicate with their parents (I know I couldn't have, if I were in that situation at that age), then what's the alternative? Have a child to term? Go to a back-alley? Suicide? Most of these alternatives are not pleasant, and there may also be an issue of a right being denied.

Unlike voting (which has an age limit set by the state which, perhaps, is a little arbitrary but still enforceable), the biological facts are that 16-year-olds can become pregnant (heck, I could've become pregnant when I was 11, but that's not the point here) but otherwise the law doesn't recognize such girls as adults. The law Phoenix found is interesting - since this is the case, then isn't the discussion somewhat moot? You're pregnant? Well, then welcome to the world of adulthood! And, let's look at this from a boy's perspective - isn't the automatic emancipation of pregnant people the automatic exclusion of a protected class of people (males)? I'd argue re the constitutionality of the cited law.


I agree that there are some facets of this that make the issue very tricky. In this case it seems that the abortion question was rasied as an issue to create a loophole in the existing laws which just seems like an odd political move to me (and the reason i pout iit in politics rather than "Medical"! lol).

The other question, if a pregnant 16 year old is considered emanicpated.. What happens AFTER she opts to have an abortion? Does she remain emancipated or does she loose that since she would no longer fit any of the categories listed? (I think that is really moot anyway based on the actual wording of the statute but...) What a legal nightmare that could become.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 03:28 pm
Quite the nightmare! It would be a lot easier for the law (and probably for parents, too), if kids were given perfect, non-removable, non-harmful birth control that expired on their 18th birthdays.

Whoever invents that will become a billionaire.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 04:04 pm
Problem is, that birth control method would also have to contain a "yes, your child really might have sex" pill for the parents. There IS perfectly wonderful birth control available out there -- the pill is so safe these days.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 04:24 pm
I'm still wondering why this was ever even brought up as an issue. I've never once heard anyone mention anything about anything like this before and then the shoe gets dropped in the middle of a televised debate where the candidates are running neck and neck (polls have them within the margin of error).

What group is this candidate trying to appeal to with this? The 16-17 year old female population? They won't be voting next week! lol I see ZERO up side to even mentioning this for the candidate and a LOT of potential down side... Political suicide?
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 04:41 pm
fishin'- I think that because the race is so close was EXACTLY why the topic was brought up. There are certain hot-button issues that appear to galvanize individuals. Maybe the candidate thought that the interest in the subject could garner some more votes that way- that by bringing up the subject, a few more people, who might not have bothered previously, might go to the polls, and put the candidacy over the top!
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 05:28 pm
Interesting thread! I think it should be cross posted to the legal forum as well.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 05:57 pm
Hmmm - for what it is worth, in my state - South Australia - for many years now a girl able to become pregnant has been considered able, in practice, to give legal consent for a termination herself - without involving parents, although a very young girl would be strongly encouraged to do so, unless the parents were very abusive. For someone under 14 I suspect the hospital might involve the local welfare department.

In my experience young women generally DO involve at least their mums, and are generally accompanied by them - and are told that their parents (or a responsible adult) would HAVE to be involved should any complications arise.

The payment thing is a non-issue since we have a free health-care system.

In my experience working in a hospital for a number of years, only one legal minor - a fifteen year old - wanted her mum not to know. She was accompanied by the baby's father.

The system seems to work very well.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 06:07 pm
I think this goes back to my pill for parents, and societal mores. I don't know if there are any studies on this, and I'm too lazy to look it up, but my impression is that the very group that is most at risk are the ones who are least likely to speak to their parents about it. I.e., poor sex education = poor communication with parents = terrified or just disinclined to tell parents if pregnancy occurs.

I would guess that Australia has a much lower teen pregnancy rate than America. Any takers to find the stats?
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 06:11 pm
Didn't check the stats, this is just based on a 30 second search:

http://aca.ninemsn.com.au/factsheets/371.asp

http://www.familycentre.com/teenage_pregnancy_statistics.htm
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Ethel2
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Oct, 2002 06:33 pm
I agree with Sozobe. The most at risk teens are the ones most in need of this legislation. For those states where a pregnant teenager is emancipated, I think, unless she is also married, she is no longer emancipated once the pregnancy is terminated. I'm pro choice as well. And it is often the case that teen age girls are forced by their parents to have babies they do not want and are ill equipped to care for. When this happens, it's a tragedy for everyone concerned. I've seen cases in which parents then insist that the teen age mother care for the child, resulting in disasterous outcomes. No pregnant person should require the consent of another person to make a decision about their own ability and/or willingness to care for a child. This is the decision of the pregnant woman (whether she's a child herself or not.) I do think that extremely young pregnant children should receive help in informing her parents, unless the parents are the type to be abusive or to inforce their will on their children. A pregnant woman/teen should be able to choose, one way or the other whether she is prepared to care for her baby. This is not a perfect answer, and not a perfect world. These tragic situations exist and are lived out everyday. And of course, some girls get pregnant in order to be emancipated. It's that bad at home.
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