Looking in the Wrong Direction

Yesterday’s New York Times published a story of an analysis done by the Times which showed that laws requiring minors to notify their parents or get permission to have an abortion do not affect abortion rates to any significant degree. This analysis should surprise no one.

These laws are supported by a majority of the population of the country, not because they are seen as preventing abortion, but because they help parents stay involved in the medical decisions of their child. This is a good thing. Even abortion opponents are quick to point out this positive aspect of parental notification laws. But for these opponents, the main purpose of these laws has always been for them to act as deterrents to teenagers having sex, and then the girl needing an abortion. But they are a little misguided.

Many abortion opponents operate under the misconception that people regard abortion as just another method of birth control. This is just not true. A condom is birth control. Spermicidal foam is birth control. Invasive medical procedures are not birth control. They are a last resort, and one, like most last resorts, that does not weigh on the mind that much until they become necessary. Availability of abortions will never be a major factor in sexual activity, especially while the negative aspects of sex (disease, unwanted pregnancy) are always something that happens to “someone else.” People are adept at being aware of risks, but ignoring them anyway, and this is doubly true when the human mind becomes aroused and singularly focused on sex.

These laws are misguided in that they miss the mark on a person’s motivation for having sex. They lack a fundamental understanding of human nature, and operate under the premise that sex is sinful and dirty, a crime of the night that must be aided and abetted by doctors in white masks to make their heist of purity a success.

The laws’ effectiveness as a deterrent also hinges on the parent or parents forcing the child to carry the pregnancy to term, thus turning that teenager into a visible, public show of the consequences of sex, a scarlet letter for the teenage harlots of the 21st century. There’s something sadistic about casting teenage pregnancy in this light.

Truly, if our country’s teenagers’ motivation for having sex is easy access to abortions, then we have failed in our responsibility to educate children about sex. We would have turned sex into just what many abortion opponents think it is: a closeted act, a threat to morality, the most physical expression of corruption known to mankind, while those who practice it out of wedlock are equated with the same destroyers of our society that we lock away in our prisons. But the fact that parental notification laws have not reduced abortions shows that attempts to demonize sex in this county don’t have much traction.

The only way to reduce the number of abortions, while they remain legal, is to reduce the number of people having sex, and convince more of the people that do to use contraceptives. Only the latter has proved to ever be viable, as efforts such as abstinence education have proven to be patently ridiculous.

Our society better prepares our children for sex through honest education, not through indoctrination or through laws like parental notification whose intent is to paint sex as a specter, and sexually active teenagers as morally bankrupt.