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Age of Consent

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"It's a formidable task to ask a 15-year-old to undergo--to go to court, file a petition, speak to a judge in public and ask for permission to have an abortion. I think it's a lot to ask a young person--and yet they did it."

If the girls are desperate enough, they will go to great lengths.
One of the fears of the pro-choice side is that even the bypass procedures will postpone the girls' search for counseling of any sort, and drive other girls to obtain illegal abortions in their desperation. For those reasons, the American Medical Association opposes parental consent.

In most states with consent or notification laws, the judicial-bypass process amounts to a rubber stamp; in other states, it depends on the political and religious beliefs of the judge.

Studies in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Massachusetts, which all have parental-consent or notification laws, show that pregnant teens travel across state borders in search of abortions rather than submit to the humiliation of having a judge decide if they are mature enough to have an abortion.

Unfortunately, the girls may not have been mature enough to keep from getting pregnant.

"I never thought it could happen to me," says Lisa.
A counselor at the clinic where she had her pregnancy test told Lisa she had better sit down to hear the results. Fear and shame and every other painful emotion washed over her, and she wept.

"I thought to myself, 'How could I be so stupid?'" especially since two of her friends had already gotten pregnant.

The answer may lie in that the girls live in a state whose legislators are writing bills restricting their access to contraceptives and requiring that sex education be limited to the virtues of abstinence.

Lisa's best friend and her boyfriend accompanied her to the abortion clinic. As they sat in the waiting room, a woman who had just undergone the procedure "freaked out," as Lisa describes it, and ran from the clinic sobbing that she had just seen a bucket of blood.

Lisa's friends started to cry, but Lisa steeled herself to do what she had come to do.

Afterward, she felt spent and confused.
"I still don't feel right about what I did," she says. "I don't think abortion should be used as birth control. I would never put myself in a position for that to happen again. It's just so wrong."

But she felt she had to do it.
"I do one day want to have kids," she continues. "But I don't want my kid growing up and being emotionally disabled like I was. Ialways wondered why my dad was never around. What did I do that was so bad? Idon't want my kid to think that, and I don't want my kid to have to go through what I did.

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Michael Kiefer