(Trigger warning: this article mentions sexual assault and incest)
Several teenagers lined up on Sunday to testify in support of HB391, the forced parental notification bill that would make young women unable to attain safe and legal abortions in New Mexico without having their parent or legal guardian being given a notification of abortion 48 hours in advance. Each teen attested to her inability to understand or fill out the consent forms without a parent by her side (although presumably she is mature enough to be a mother). Opponents of the bill said that these young women testifying, like most teens, would go to their parents if they were in a time of need, and therefore were not the young people this bill would harm.
Adriann Barboa of Forward Together testified that she has worked hard to let her children know that they can come to her or another trusted adult when they need help, rather than turn to the internet. These relationships are built over time through communication between parents, daughters, grandkids, aunts, and nieces. Legislation that forces a teenager to notify her parents that she is pregnant and desiring to end her pregnancy cannot build or replace these relationships.
Senator Mimi Stewart (D) talked about her difficult childhood, when she did not have a trusted adult she could go to in a time of need. Two other senators got teary-eyed while testifying. Senator Candelaria (D) explained that his mother had him at a very young age. “I interrupted a lot of her plans” he said and explained that they persevered because of the love and support in his family that some people do not have. Senator Bill O’Neil (D), who has worked with young people in the NM criminal legal system as the Director of the Juvenile Parole Board, testified about the very real reality of rape and incest in some young women’s lives.
Despite a clause excluding young women who became pregnant from rape or incest, Candelaria and O’Neil both worried that the bill would be harmful to these young women. O’Neil said the bill puts the onus on the young women to prove what they have been through in order to get access to medical care. He worried that being put in such a position could create new trauma for these women.
Proponents of HB391 testified that without this bill parents would be kept in the dark about dangerous situations. The reality is that physicians are already mandated to report sexual assault and they do. That reporting already happens without this bill, and in fact, as Senator Candelaria pointed out, the bill undermines the current reporting process. In the rare case that the pregnancy is the result of incest, the bill is mandating an additional report directly to the perpetrator that would not otherwise happen at such an early stage in the reporting process. This is dangerous for young woman.
A rep from Planned Parenthood testified that all patients, including teenagers, talk to a counselor before their abortions. This is also the policy at SWWO, because we take consent seriously. One of the reasons we have one-on-one confidential counseling is to ensure that the patient is making this decision free from external pressure, be it from a partner or a parent. As the Planned Parenthood rep said, “Sometimes teens are being pressured to have an abortion from their parents. We take that very seriously too.”
We are very lucky in New Mexico that our senators voted to protect young women. Other states around the country have not been so lucky. Check out the Daily Show’s report on the reality for teens in Alabama that are forced to go through the judicial bypass procedure.
And visit our website soon for an update about parental notification laws in Texas and an article about why a notification of abortion bill hurts all women, not just the ones seeking to end a pregnancy.
Click here to thank your senators for voting to table HB390 and HB391!