John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) is former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. He is especially interested in moral theology and the thought of John Paul II.
In the musical “The Sound of Music,” Captain von Trapp’s eldest daughter, Liesl, infatuated with the young Fascist, Rolfe, sings about her maturity: “I am sixteen, going on seventeen…”
I thought of that song in connection with two pieces of recent pro-life news.
“Unplanned,” the film documenting Abby Johnson’s conversion from abortion clinic director to pro-life advocate, debuted in “select” theaters around the United States. They really were “select” – actually self-selected – because the one thousand cinemas that defied the media blackout of “Unplanned” showed a lot of guts. It was telling, for example, that not a single theater in the whole city of Washington showed the film on its premier weekend.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) facilitated the media blackout by rating “Unplanned” “R.” The “Restricted” rating meant the film could not be seen by Liesl or anybody else who was “sixteen, going on seventeen” without a parent or guardian.
The MPAA never explained why “Unplanned” pulled an “R” rating. Films usually are rated “R” because of excessive sex or violence. There are few, if any depictions of sex in “Unplanned,” certainly nowhere near as graphic as in “mainstream entertainment.” One must guess, therefore, that the depictions of abortion and their bloody consequences for women were deemed too violent for innocent eyes that are “sixteen, going on seventeen.”
“Unplanned” was released this spring just as many states were considering abortion-related legislation. In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, both sides were energized. Pro-abortionists, led by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, are pushing legislation to ensconce abortion up through birth (and maybe a little beyond), just in case Roe is modified. Pro-lifers, encouraged that the Supreme Court might finally entertain limits on Roe’s practically unlimited abortion liberty, have been advancing state laws that, in some cases, challenge Roe directly and, in others, chip away at some of the precedents handed down in the 46 long years since Roe, hoping some might be ready for modification.
Florida is one such state. A bill pending in the Legislature would require parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion.
In the first years after Roe, states began trying to identify just how much they could still limit abortion. Missouri, reasoning that all other medical procedures performed on a minor require parental consent, adopted a law requiring minors to have parental consent for abortion. It also required spousal consent, reasoning that it took two people to conceive this child and thus both had a stake in its future.
Parental (and spousal) consent were one of the first limits on abortion tossed by the Supreme Court. Just three years after Roe, the Court struck down the Missouri law in Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (428 US 52).
I have always been bothered by the rationale in Danforth. The Court reasoned that Missouri could not afford parents or fathers a decisive role in whether a minor or a wife obtained an abortion because, it said, the state did not have that right and thus could not “delegate” it to parents or fathers (at 70, 71).
Read Harry Blackmun’s audacious (and mendacious) claim. A father or a parent has no say in a wife’s or minor daughter’s abortion because they are not “delegates” of the state.
I wonder how many husbands thought, when engaging in intercourse, that they are performing a patriotic duty on behalf of the “Show-Me State.”
Blackmun’s logic betrays the absolute illogic that has governed abortion politics. Although he claims in Roe that “a woman cannot be isolated in her privacy,” that is exactly what he does. For him, there are no natural rights that come from the family and pre-exist the state. The only “rights” are those the state confers (or cannot confer). And, according to Blackmun, it cannot confer a role in preventing an abortion.
The issue of minors and abortion remained a fraught issue. Some states, noting that a child can’t be given an aspirin in most places without parental consent, insisted that neither can they be given abortions. Other states sought to compromise by saying parents did not need to “consent” to a minor’s abortion, but they would have to be “notified.”
Planned Parenthood, of course, would have none of that.
In subsequent litigation, Planned Parenthood got the courts to force states to incorporate exceptions in parental consent/notification law, allowing somebody else in lieu of parents to grant approval. In most cases, it was a judge. (When the child was injured, I wonder how many of those judges sat up with the girl). As Charles Dickens puts it in A Christmas Carol, the exception was broad enough “to drive a coach and six up a good old flight of stairs.”
The Florida bill would switch the Sunshine State from being a “notification” to a “consent” state. The media has already been seeking poster children to portray just how “radical” the change is.
See, Liesl could get an abortion in Florida without Captain von Trapp or Maria knowing the least thing about it. She just can’t go to see something as disturbing as “Unplanned.”
Reminds me of another song from another musical: “Is a Puzzlement.”
Yes, the pro-abortion crowd would like you to believe that “at times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely know.” Yes, the pro-abortionists would like to befuddle peoples’ minds into believing that for-profit businesses have a more realistic view of “the best interests of a child” than the child’s mother or father. Abby Johnson alluded to that in “Unplanned,” noting that she never told her mother about her first two abortions … and that “there’s probably something not good or right about not being able to tell your mother something.”
Florida, and other states, want to reinvolve parents in these life-changing decisions. In enacting these laws, they rightly challenge the flawed and erroneous logic of Danforth that a woman has an absolute right to abortion, bereft of any natural bonds to anybody else (including parents and/or co-creating spouses) but instead entitled to state support to facilitate that abortion. This is exactly what is at stake in legislation, like New York’s, which pretends that no one – neither parents, spouses, nor society – can have any effective opinion about abortion other than to “shout” what a great “choice” it is.
It’s a puzzlement. Especially when you’re sixteen, going on seventeen. Especially when you have no “choice” about seeing “Unplanned,” but are left to a “choice”—all alone, by yourself—on abortion.
I hope that parents, who still have some tutelary role over what films their minor might see, decides that their Liesls should see “Unplanned.” Hopefully, they will also work at ensuring the state again recognizes their natural right over their child’s medical “treatment.”
All views herein are exclusively those of the author.