As a reproductive health counselor at Blue Mountain Family Practice, I am concerned that Legislative Referendum 120, the parental notification ballot measure, will endanger already vulnerable teens when it likely passes this fall.
At first glance, this ballot measure sounds reasonable; most parents want to be involved in their daughters’ pregnancy decisions. During pregnancy options counseling, I try to get a sense for each patient’s support network and encourage young women to seek out support from a trusted adult. Fortunately, nearly all minors seeking abortion care bring a parent or other adult with them to their appointment. For these patients, LR 120 will simply add red tape to their medical visit.
For young women who are unable to approach a parent due to violence or abuse, however, this ballot measure could have dangerous consequences, even with the judicial bypass exception.
I am often amazed at the obstacles women overcome to reach our clinic. They navigate abusive domestic situations, struggle to secure funding, and travel long distances all while working through the emotions surrounding their decision. To obtain judicial bypass, a minor must prove in court that she is “intelligent and mature” enough to make a decision about her pregnancy. Forcing her to sit before a judge and answer intrusive questions about her situation adds an unnecessary and intimidating step to an already difficult situation. Further, if a desperate young woman is unaware of or unable to obtain judicial bypass, she could resort to unsafe abortion methods if she thinks she must tell a parent before getting a safe abortion.
In an ideal world, no 15-year-old should have to make a pregnancy decision, but let’s not make it harder on the women who must, and who must do it without the support of a healthy family unit. Vote against LR 120.
Ryann Milne-Price, Missoula