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Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2003 / 3 Tishrei, 5764

Nat Hentoff

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Choosing life or death | I know women who fiercely support abortion rights, but just as aggressively insist that parents should know whether their underage daughters plan to have an abortion. A majority of American parents (73 percent) agree, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll and several other national surveys.

Yet there are pro-choice organizations that lobby hard against parental-consent laws — and also against such federal judicial nominees, such as Priscilla Owen, who take the right of parental consent seriously (Owen still languishes in a Senate Democratic filibuster).

But some state's laws allow a judicial bypass for a minor who convinces a judge that she might suffer serious harm if she told her hostile family that she was going to have an abortion. That makes sense, but does not undermine the need for parental-consent statutes in all the other situations.

Lifespan News, a pro-life publication based in Livonia, Mich., reports of a new version of parental consent. It tells of a Planned Parenthood poster contest on the theme, "Every Choice is a Story," and notes that on Planned Parenthood's Web site, there is this rule for entrants:

"Children under age 18 must have parent or legal guardian's permission to submit their designs and for us to publish it along with their name." This requirement of parental consent from a pro-choice organization was first noted in the Citizen, the pro-life group Focus on the Family's monthly magazine, which added that the Web site conveniently provided a parental consent form to be signed by the parents.

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These two pro-life publications clearly savor the irony of a rule that children not old enough to vote must get parental consent to enter a "pro-choice" poster contest, but not to end a human life.

Meanwhile, in Choose Life, a publication of the National Right to Life Committee, comes news of a research study by Michael J. New at the Harvard-MIT Data Center on what impact pro-life legislation has had on reducing the number of abortions.

On the basis of abortion data from nearly every state from 1985-1999, parental involvement and informed consent state laws reduced "both abortion rates (abortions per thousand women ages 15 to 44) and ratios (abortions per thousand births)."

To be fair to the abortion rights forces, it has to be stated that the research study also shows that a more significant drop in these abortion rates and ratios was caused by restrictions in Medicaid funding of abortions.

Clearly, there are children alive because of parental consent laws.

Likely to further limit the number of abortions, regardless of the composition of the Supreme Court, is an advancement in ultrasound technology, allowing one to see the evolving life in the womb. Now available is the 3D/4D "four-dimensional" ultrasound scanning that, as the June 2003 issue of Citizen reports — "offers patients the opportunity to see their babies moving with incredible surface detail that delineates facial and body features." I saw these 4D human beings in a recent television broadcast.

Dr. Robert Wolfson, a Colorado Springs perinatologist specializing in detecting fetal abnormalities, is quoted in the Citizen's article. In a number of hospitals, through fetal surgery, these abnormalities can be repaired in the womb. But, with regard to the impact of 3D/4D ultrasound on abortion, Wolfson says that "it creates a commitment to the pregnancy, and the individual on board, from both parents. ... It's all about the fact that you can fall in love with your child before birth."

Years ago, defending my pro-life position on a radio talk show in Madison, Wis., I was excoriated by a woman caller who furiously described the fetus as "the enemy within," adding that, in self-defense, she had "the right to kill my enemy."

Had there been 3D/4D ultrasound then, I have no idea whether seeing her "enemy" in real-time, active detail would have changed her mind. But with more of these ultrasound machines becoming available, I expect the choices for life will multiply, and there's nothing the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee can do about that.

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Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance". Comment by clicking here.

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