4 Discussion: Forcing Your Daughter

Do you think a pregnant teen’s parents should have a voice in deciding whether the teen chooses between parenting, abortion, or adoption?

My friends at the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy asked the above question on their twitter feed.

I am guessing this is partially in relation to the recent news item titled Texas Teen Wins Right to Give Birth Over Parents’ Objections.

Read the news item above and come back with your thoughts. I would love to discuss this.

I will offer this from my own perspective and it is not necessarily related to the parents but the professionals and policy makers outside the teens home.  I object strongly to the fact that in many states you need to get your parents “notification” or approval to have an abortion yet you can give your child away without their knowledge. This fact alone is very pro-life and supporting of the adoption agenda. If abortion notification is required, then adoption should be as well.  Cases like Stephanie Bennett come to mind.

Below you will find an example of the notification of abortion/versus adoption. This is excerpted from the website for Colorado Youth Matter. Bold emphasis is mine.

“If you are 18 or over, you can choose adoption or abortion without parental consent. If you are under 18, you can choose adoption for your child without involving your parents. However, we recommend that if your parents or another adult you trust can support you in this that you talk to them. If you are under 18 years old you are required to have “parental notification” to get an abortion.  This is not the same as parental permission - a parent or guardian just has to know what’s going on.  If you are not able to notify a parent or guardian, you can ask a judge for permission.” – coloradoyouthmatter.org

What are your thoughts? Should parents be allowed to legally force their teen daughters to abort, parent or place for adoption against her will? And if you agree they should be, shouldn’t it apply to all options? Meaning, shouldn’t parental authorization to place for adoption also be required?


15 Thoughts.

  1. Hi, I came here by way of another site. I placed a baby for adoption in 1989, so the adoption topic is one close to my heart. (And I admit, my view of adoption is not always a pleasant one. ) To answer the question at the beginning of this post, I’m not sure. I think in an ideal world a teen would always be able to go to their parent and receive love and support, but as a forty three year old woman, I know it’s not an ideal world. If my oldest daughter, who happens to be 16, got pregnant I would want to know, regardless of what she decided to do. I love her dearly and believe in my heart that my husband and me would be able to help her through it better than any other person on this earth, but I also know we would provide counsel and not force her to do anything. Ultimately it is her choice. The whole forcing of anything makes me nervous. That being said, if you give freedom in one area ( allowing girls to place without telling parents) then you must give freedom in all areas ( meaning removing parental consent in cases of abortion ). It shocks me that a young woman would be able to place a baby without notifying a parent. I had no idea this was the case. I think the adoption process is very pro adoptive parent ( my bias, I’m sure) and I feel like so many abuses could be done to the birth mom. It scares me and makes me sad. Just as abortion can have lasting effects, so too can placing a baby. Neither should be taken lightly. And I think our society ultimately thinks placing a baby is altruistic when in fact, the needs of the birth mom are really overlooked and in my opinion, all the talk about how people respect that choice so much is just lip service. I placed a baby and was basically told to get over it and move forward because I had no rights to the baby and certainly no right to feel sad – because the amazing adoptive parents were so willingly taking this baby into their home out of nothing but the kindness of their hearts and they were now the REAL parents. I’m getting off topic. My point really is that the rights given to one group should be the rights given to every group. Either parental notification in all cases or in none.

    • Welcome Annmarie and thank you for your comment. I am inclined to agree with you on all points. And no worries on not being pleasant about adoption. If you read more here you will see I am the poster child for family preservation and teen parent support with adoption in rare cases and even then with ties to family of origin and birth certificates in tact. If a mother truly does not wish to care for her child, the father, grandparents should be granted custody without question. We should not dismantle families simply because a wealthy infertile family is waiting in the wings to line the pockets of an agency.

      The current US social structure in relation to adoption is VERY pro-adoptive parents. The rights are all in their court with the mother and child lagging far behind. Very wrong.

  2. I’m glad I am not alone in my thinking. I looked around your site a little bit and enjoyed what I saw and will read more things as time allows. I got pregnant when I was 19 and in college. My parents told me I had to give the baby up and I thought that was my only option. For many years I fought against my gut feeling that adoption, in many, many cases ( most!) is wrong. I knew no one else who felt this way and really, with the exception of what I have read here, I don’t know anyone who feels the way I do, so I never bring it up with people. My college years were filled with too much drinking and bad behavior. Sadly I didn’t even know who the father of the baby was. I feel a great sense of shame over this and probably always will. When I went for the final adoption hearing, the lawyers on all sides (who were all men and much older than me), asked me who the father was and had he been notified. For some reason my parents weren’t in the room with me. I panicked and didn’t say anything and at one point one of the lawyers said if I did know the name of the father I had to tell them now so that they could put a legal notice in the paper saying they were looking for father of said baby. So I had to admit that I didn’t know who father was. It was so humiliating. And then I chose a completely closed adoption with the baby knowing not a single about me and me nothing about him. I was young and stupid and had REALLY bad counsel all around. If I had known more and been more mature I wouldn’t have done this. This is why I feel so strongly that if my own daughters become pregnant before they feel ready to raise a baby, I would want them to tell me. I wish my parents had allowed me to consider more options and I wish I was stronger at the time to perhaps stand up for myself. Nineteen is not that young and I should have had more of a backbone by that point in my life, but hindsight and all… Anyway, it feels freeing to say that I really do not support adoption and I live with the regret on a pretty regular basis. Looking forward to reading more of your site. Thanks for listening, sorry I went on.

    • I completely agree with you, Annmarie. There are quite a few ‘first moms’ who feel as you and I do. I feel quite coerced, manipulated, and played for a total fool by the adoption agency social worker and completely betrayed by my parents. This was in 1985, so not long before you. I was 17 at the time, and although I voiced strong opposition to adoption, I was told if I kept the baby, we’d not be welcome back home, and support from them would be minimal at best. Add to that being told I was selfish to even consider keeping her, and that she would ultimately suffer if she stayed with me, it broke me down…I surrendered.

      It floors me that a minor could make such a life-altering decision without parental knowledge. Why is that?? Easier to control and manipulate a vulnerable young girl if there’s no parent around who might not agree with adoption? Hmmm…love to know the reason behind *that.* I also vowed that if one of my children had to deal with a teen-aged pregnancy, I would support them but never, ever encourage adoption as an option. They know how we have all suffered with the loss of our daughter/sister so I doubt they’d ever consider it anyway.

      You’re not alone!

  3. Amy – Also in agreement with you. I am currently parenting two sons after surrendering my daughter in 1986. It sickens me to think that my sons might get someone pregnant and I would never know, that he would never be given the chance to do the right thing, that we could lose a member of our family to adoption. Had I been allowed to parent my daughter. the same would be true. Her child would be a member of our family. Not discarded like yesterdays trash as I was, and sadly, my daughter likely feels she was. So not true.

  4. At 15, I placed my daughter for adoption and in order to do so I became an “emancipated minor.” In order to have an abortion at the same age, in the state of Pennsylvania, I would have needed to seek parental notification or a judicial bypass. The public, in general, does not know this.

    Because of my own experience, I absolutely do not support parental notification laws. For me, I had more than a few good reasons why I didn’t tell my parents I was pregnant. If given the choice today, I would still bypass their input. In perfect world, teens would notify and discuss options, but we do not live in that space.

    Great question!

  5. Oh my, I have a lot to say about this! But will keep it as short as I can.

    I’m glad that the girl won the case and her parents weren’t allowed to coerce her into an abortion. That said, I was 19, an adult when I got pregnant, and still let my parents coerce me… make that command me. If I had told them early enough, they would have forced me into an abortion (in those days, overseas, since it wasn’t legal in the U.S. then). I was dependent on them for support, not fully educated, no job, no means, and I didn’t think I had any choice. Hooray for young women today who believe they have a choice and fight for it!

    On the other hand, I don’t think it’s right that the court ruled that her parents have to pay for half of the maternity costs, provide her with a car, etc. I think she should have been given the option to emancipate and take care of herself, with support from the baby’s father, an organization that supports teen mothers, or whatever. Can you imagine how it will be living with the parents who wanted her to abort? I know, she’s a minor and they are responsible for her until she’s 18. But if they aren’t allowed to set the rules, then why are they forced to act (and pay) against their wishes. I know, she may have few options… just saying. I hope she gets out of there. Because it’s not going to be supportive, other than financially.

    It reminds me of how parents are responsible if their kid steals or vandalizes… they are responsible for making restitution. As if their daughter has committed a crime.

    If I’d had the strength to buck my parents wishes, I wouldn’t have expected them to pay for my decision.

  6. Ooh, that’s a tough one. As a parent, I would certainly want to know if my minor child were pregnant/got someone pregnant, and what decisions they were making with regard to such. So from that persepctive, parental notification regarding the exercising of all options sits well with me. And…after many years of working with college students, I am painfully aware that there are many teens for whom parental notification could be dangerous, due to an abusive family system. I immediately think of two young women I worked with whose fathers, upon discovering their daughters were pregnant, beat them into miscarrying (one of whom was also denied access to medical treatment following). The problem is that many of the complexities and varieties of individual circumstances are often inadequately addressed by “one size fits all” laws.

    • Completely understand your point Psychobabbler even if I dont like it. What I mean by this is that too often laws, regulations, processes are put in place to protect/assist the teens you reference (the ones with abusive home environments). However, not all homes are abusive. Why should I be excluded from my childs life, decisions, etc. merely because some other parent is abusive to their kids? I had a lengthy debate with my sister in law on this topic. (in that case it was about STD testing of high school students without parental knowledge).

      We blame parents for not being involved or better or whatever yet we regularly take away their rights and responsibilities by allowing children to circumvent them.

      My thoughts are exhaustive so I may save them for another post. I don’t have answers of course, just frustrations, concerns, etc. as a PARENT and MOTHER. These thoughts conflict with my own experience as an unsupported young woman.

  7. Emphatically no, a parent should not be able to legally force a young woman into abortion, adoption, or parenting. I do believe, however, that if the parents are willing to parent their grandchild and the mother is not, they should be allowed to do so (except in cases of abuse or neglect of course). My reasoning is that a child should grow up in their biological family whenever possible.

    Emphatically no, a young woman facing a crisis pregnancy should not legally have to inform her parents of the pregnancy, whatever she chooses. I also don’t believe a young woman contemplating having sex should need parental consent to obtain proper birth control. Although I have heard the stories of parents not realizing their daughter is pregnant until they go into labor, I would think it would be fairly rare for a teen to hide a pregnancy and subsequent adoption without her parents ever finding out.

    From a personal perspective, if my daughter finds herself pregnant as a teen it is my greatest hope that she will come and talk to me about it. I would be upset, certainly. But to force her to make a decision she is against, I just could not live with myself. It is a decision that she needs to make, with support and non judgement. She would be the one who would have to live with and make peace with her path in life, not me or her father.

  8. Oh this is such a tough question. My daughter is 15 and we’ve had a discussion about this – I told her that she was a surprise pregnancy and also the best thing that ever happened to me, even though was totally freaked out at the time. I couldn’t bring myself yet to tell her that I planned to give her away but changed my mind. Someday.

    I also told her of the history of hyper-fertility in the women in our family and that if she ever got pregnant (which I hope won’t happen for at least 10 years, if not more) she had three choices – she could get an abortion, raise the child, or I would raise the child. I told her she’d have to step over my dead body to give up the baby for adoption – that there was no reason to send that baby outside of its family. We were sort of kidding around, but not really.

    Now as far as the law is concerned, it’s a harder question. There are girls in abusive homes to consider, but the idea that a young teenager could place their child for adoption, a decision she might come to regret later, pains me to think about.

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  10. annmarie,, i’m glad you landed on suz’s site. Your posts are heartbreaking, and I so understand the self flagelation you are going through, I hope at some point you can hang that up, that we can each get rid of it. Of course if we knew then what we know now, but we were deluded. My daughter was born in 1970- a time of incredible shame and secrecy. I couldn’t bear the thought that people would find out I’d had sex. I couldn’t imagine taking my baby home to my parents home, they had 7 younger chldren. I couldn’t imagine the shame of being a single mother. I was v. naive, and also very afraid, and didn’t want to cause any more trouble for my parents. I willingly walked the plank, filled with grief.
    Also they did do a newpaper legal notice for me also, and I realize now it was so they wouldn’t have to get the father to sign off, in case he changed his mind or otherwise messed up their plans (Cath. Char.). He completely walked away from me, and it never occured to me that he might want her himself = or whatever happens. When my daughter got her original birth certificate, the father’s name is either blank or ‘unknown’. He was a worm, I’m sure he regrets it now. And in 1970, being young sheltered catholic, with none of my own money, I wouldn’t have known how to get an abortion. I just wish young girls did NOT have to face such difficult choices which they don’t understand when they are having sex. It’s just tragic. And yes, the adoptive parents and the adoption handlers- they have all the cards. And I do feel commited to pointing that out, every chance I get. I’ve noticed no one wants to hear it. 🙂

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