Goodman/Parental Consent

Parental consent laws for minors seeking abortion are supported by the majority of Americans, yet pro-abortion advocates have vigorously opposed passage of these laws. 

The latest opposition comes from Ellen Goodman writing for St. Louis Today whose argument proves too much.  Goodman’s argument seems to be that the logic of parental consent laws legitimizes abduction and forced abortion. 

First, Kaitlyn Kampf, the 19 year old who was kidnapped by her parents because they wanted to compel her to have an abortion, was not a minor.  So this is not an example of a parental consent law gone bad.

Second, the concept of parental consent in medical matters is firmly established and largely uncontroversial.  Yet on Goodman’s reasoning even these would be suspect.  If parental consent is needed for a minor to receive surgery, then parents would have the power to force their child to have her arms amputated against her will.  This is silly, of course, which shows that her argument proves too much.

Which brings us to the heart of Goodman’s misunderstanding.  She takes the requirement for consent in a limited way to be the liberty of coercion in an unlimited way.  The reason these are called parental consent laws is because they require parental consent on some matters; they do not legitimize parental coercion on any matter.

There are some choices a minor shouldn’t be allowed to make without her parents’ approval. That doesn’t mean parents can coerce their child to do anything they want. 

Goodman is mistaken.  The moral logic of parental consent laws does not lead to abductions and forced abortions.  Her argument isn’t an accurate case of parental consent cases, and her objection to parental oversight of medical decisions would also apply to all medical decisions for minors.

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Greg Koukl