This blog post was published in conjunction with Repro Health Watch, an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report, which compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws, ballot initiatives and litigation affecting women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care.
LR120’s language would lead Montanans to believe that hoards of young women are rushing to clinics in an effort to end secret pregnancies. This depiction couldn’t be further from the truth. The small percentage of young women who do choose abortion come to clinics with a trusted adult — an auntie, grandma or older sibling — or their parent. These young women are not “coerced” into an abortion, as the language of LR120 implies; however, the results of LR120 could be to force young women to carry pregnancies to term against their will. LR120 hits close to home. Had parental notification been in place when I was 15, many friends of mine would have been directly impacted. One friend writes:
I write this letter with my daughter kicking inside my belly. I do not take the ballot initiative LR120 lightly, as it forces me contemplate her future and my past.
When I was 15, I was pregnant with my high school boyfriend’s baby. At the time, I knew that abortion was the right decision. My home life was not exactly a stable loving environment, and I know my parents would not have consented to my abortion if the choice were left up to them. With the support of my boyfriend and his mother, I was able to get an abortion very early on. If there had been legislation like LR120, my entire life trajectory would be different.
Today, I am in a loving marriage, have a good education, and am 7 months pregnant. I feel physically and emotionally ready to give this pregnancy and then child what she needs.
LR120 attempts to improve family communications through mandating that clinics notify parents before their daughter gets an abortion. However, for young women like my friend, informing her parents would have made her life increasingly complicated. Had she been forced to have a baby at 15, she is well aware that her life would be very different.
In Idaho many pieces of legislation conspire to make abortion close to impossible. In the last year, a story of a woman who ordered the abortion pill online and induced her own procedure has been publicized. While abortion is legal, this woman would have had to travel long distances and find accommodation during her procedure. She felt financially unable to access legal care, so she took matters into her own hands.
While it is very possible that LR120 will pass in Montana, the greatest fear is that young women will resort to extreme measures before getting accurate information on alternatives or having the opportunity to access a timely judicial bypass. It will be the job of choice advocates to make this process as easy to navigate and as transparent as possible. Like my friend, who made a difficult choice for herself and her future, all young women in Montana need support, not more obstacles.
Lynsey Bourke, Director of Development, Outreach and Communications
Blue Mountain Clinic Family Practice, Missoula, MT