Attempt To Exclude Parents From Medical Decisions Slammed

Media Release 6 May 2016
Family First NZ is slamming statements by the Ministry of Justice that a parent should not be informed about a medical issue affecting their child because it might breach the child’s rights.

The comments are related to a petition being considered by Parliament on behalf of a Stratford mother whose teenager daughter attempted suicide after a secret abortion organised by the local school. According to the Care of Children Act 2004, a girl of any age can give consent to an abortion and that consent operates as if it were given by her parents.

“Therefore, her parents need never know that their daughter is having such a medical procedure. But what is most significant is that it is the only medical procedure where the parents can be ‘kept in the dark’. In an attempt to justify this, the Ministry of Justice are taking this even further to any medical procedure and that a child should be presumed ‘competent’,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“This is just idiotic and dangerous thinking which ignores the important role of parents, and laws which are designed to respect families taking in to account the maturity and capacity of children to make important decisions affecting them. Does this mean that a son or daughter can now refuse to have their tonsils out, immunisations, taking medication, and operations which are necessary and life-saving but which children are understandably anxious about?”

“The parental notification law currently means that while a parent has to sign a letter for their daughter to go on a school trip to the zoo or to play in the netball team, they are totally excluded from any knowledge or granting of permission for that same child to be put on the pill or have a surgical abortion. It begs the question – what is so unique about abortion procedures which allows for the prohibition of parental consent?”

“Ironically, if there is a complication from the abortion, the parent’s consent is then required for further treatment. A recent research paper argued that most female adolescents only start to acquire sufficient autonomous capacity from the age of 14 years and as such the legislative wording of the current law is problematic and arguably careless.”

“Parental notification laws in a number of US states have seen a drop in both the pregnancy rate and the teen abortion rate – a win-win situation for all concerned. Important decisions like these should not happen in isolation from parental support. We must acknowledge and respect the important and vital role of parents.”

The current law is also out of step with the wishes of New Zealanders. A 2010 independent poll of 1,000 people by Curia Market Research found that four out of five people supported parental notification laws. In a similar independent poll in 2012, teens (aged 15-21) were asked “Provided it won’t put the girl in physical danger, should parents be told if their school-age daughter is pregnant and considering getting an abortion?” almost 2 out of 3 young respondents thought the parents should be told. 34% disagreed. More young men than women agreed, but both had majority agreement.

“It is significant that even young people can see the importance of having parents informed and involved, even when they know that those same parents will be rightly disappointed and upset. This is a very strong response from young people, and is a rebuke to the politicians in 2004 who chose to exclude parents from this process when debating the provision in the Care of Children Bill,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Politicians concerned about the welfare of young teenagers in a vulnerable and difficult situation should support family involvement,” says Mr McCoskrie.

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