Legal consent

I am writing in agreement with Sharon Challand’s letter to the editor of Oct. 20. I am a Registered Pediatric Nurse and it has been my responsibility, under federal and state regulations, to obtain parental consent for surgical and/or invasive procedures performed on children under the age of 18. These procedures include (but are not limited to) immunizations, certain x-rays and diagnostic tests, surgical procedures (with or without anesthesia), and admission to observation in the hospital.

Abortion is an invasive surgical procedure. Some would say it is very similar to a tonsillectomy (the author wishes to note that this does not reflect her view), in that a foreign object is introduced into the child’s body and problematic tissue is removed. Parental consent is required for a tonsillectomy—why not for an abortion? Is it because only pregnancy allows a 13-year-old girl rights over her own body? Is it because a 13-year-old has the right to choose? Is it to protect her privacy? Guard her well-being? Guard her rights as a woman? How does pregnancy, as opposed to any other medical or reproductive condition, make a 13-year-old girl an adult?

My next question is where do we draw the line? What if a 12-year-old were pregnant? How about an 11-year-old? Is the government trying to tell us that 13-year-olds are now capable of making complex medical decisions? Well, at least we should be consistent. If a 13-year-old can decide to abort, why not let her decide whether or not to have chemotherapy? Whether or not to have a heart transplant? Whether or not to have her tonsils out or be admitted to the hospital?

Our federal and state regulations must be consistent. Parental consent is not a punishment. In the ideal situation, it functions as a tool in the best interest of a child.

Cheryl Arundel

Registered Nurse