Teen abortion issues are very difficult to address, because of the difficulties that are seen on both sides of the dilemma. For those who are under the age of 18, there are considerations regarding their right to privacy vs. their parents' right to have information on them in order to raise them properly and keep them safe from harm (Schools, 2004). Both legal and ethical implications are a part of the discussion, and there are laws in some states that vary from the laws in others. That is especially true with parental consent when a minor attempts to obtain an abortion (Schools, 2004). The question of whether a parent has the right to know or whether the teen has a right to privacy is one that is not easily answered, and one that has a number of different options based on age and other factors and circumstances (Schools, 2004). In order to fully understand which option is the best one for a teen, all factors have to be considered and addressed properly.
The Case of Melissa
There are two specific issues with the teen abortion case of Melissa, addressed here. The first issue is regarding school policy when it comes to a teen wanting to get an abortion, and the second is with the school counselor providing any advice regarding abortion to a teenage student. Both of these are legal and ethical concerns, that have to be considered from two different standpoints. Melissa is Taiwanese, 17 years old, and a junior in high school. While she is normally quiet and does not get into any trouble, she comes to her guidance counselor -- who she has spoken to before about unrelated matters -- to ask where she might be able to get an abortion. She is two months pregnant, and does not want to tell her parents about it, so she thinks it is best to get an abortion. The school counselor, Donna, tells her she wants to meet with her and talk about her options before any decision is made. Then, she considers whether she will notify Melissa's parents, because the school has a policy about notifying parents if there is an issue with a child. Donna is Catholic, and does not personally believe in abortion.
From a legal standpoint, the first issue addresses school policy vs. state law. There has been a great deal of contention regarding sensitive personal issues of students and whether schools should provide that information to parents (Schools, 2004). However, if a school has a policy that it provides that information to parents, the students should have been made aware of this and should know not to talk to counselors at the school because their information will not be kept private.
The legal issue at hand here is that it is legal for a minor in Melissa's state to get an abortion without the consent of her parents. Because it is legal for her to do so, she is entitled to do that with no recourse (at least from a legal standpoint). If Donna, the counselor, chooses to invoke school policy and tell Melissa's parents about her pregnancy and her request for abortion information, she would be putting the policy of the school ahead of the state laws. This would set a concerning precedent for the legalities of policies created at schools all over the country (Schools, 2004).
For example, other school policies such as dress codes and similar issues are only a part of the school. If there is a concern over them, the student may be punished by the school -- but there is no legal recourse in the sense that a student could be legally charged with a crime for failure to follow them. School policies may be considered the "laws" of the school, but they are not actual laws and should not be treated as such. The law is a delicate subject, and has to be addressed properly (Sarat, 2005).
Even though school policy states that parents will be notified of issues with their children, it can easily be argued that this refers to school-related issues that the school can (and should) have some type of jurisdiction over. Melissa's pregnancy and desire to have an abortion has nothing to do with the school's policies on school-related issues at all. Because that is the case, Donna must remain aware of what state law provides regarding teen abortions, because it is not the legal place of the school to get involved in these types of issues.
The second consideration to be addressed legally is whether Donna can (and should) provide information regarding an abortion to Melissa. Strictly from a legal standpoint, there have been court cases that have addressed this particular issue (Stone, 2004). These cases are generally focused on what type of advice counselors can give, without overstepping their bounds. In one such case, a young couple who went to their school counselor because of an unintended pregnancy eventually sued the school because they felt they were pressured into getting an abortion (Stone, 2004). In that particular case, the school provided information on abortion, and the principal even paid someone to drive the girl to the clinic for the procedure (Stone, 2004).
The couple did work for others in order to make the money that it cost for the procedure (Stone, 2004). They were not supposed to be seeing one another, and did not want their parents to know (Stone, 2004). However, the truth finally came out that the abortion had taken place, and that they felt the school had not really given them a choice (Stone, 2004). By helping the girl get an abortion, she said she had been made to feel as though she had no choice in the matter (Stone, 2004). Naturally, it appeared that the school had overstepped legal boundaries, and ethical ones, as well.
Despite that concern, it was eventually determined through court appeals that what really happened was that the girl had chosen to have an abortion of her own free will, and that the school did not force her into it in any way (Stone, 2004). Donna, of course, would want to avoid these kinds of legal ramifications for herself and the school, so she would need to be very careful of the type and amount of advice she would give to Melissa. Trying to talk her out of an abortion could also be problematic when it comes to her legal rights, regardless of Donna's personal beliefs, as the legalities of the issue have no relationship to personal or school-related opinions that are not strictly based in legal precedent.
Legal considerations are not the only issues that have to be addressed. There are also ethical considerations -- and this is where a lot of problematic areas can arise. What is ethical to one person may not seem ethical to another, and it can be hard to create guidelines for everyone to follow for each specific situation (De La Torre, 2004; Fagothey, 2000). In this particular case, whether abortion is ethical is a large debate, but it is not one for the school to decide. Donna's personal opinion as to whether it is ethical for Melissa to get an abortion should not matter in her quest to help the girl, and she should not focus on what is right or wrong based on her opinion of how things should be done. That would be unethical because it goes against her goals and duties as a guidance counselor.
While she can provide Melissa with various options, attempting to sway her one way or the other would go beyond what she should ethically be doing in her position. She must carefully consider that before she talks with Melissa again, so she does not make a mistake that could end with her and the school getting into trouble because they were imposing personal beliefs onto students. Since the school is a public one and not a religious, private school, religion -- Donna's or anyone else's -- should not be brought into the mix. The issue is not whether it is ethical for a 17-year-old girl to get an abortion. The issue is whether it is ethical for her school counselor to provide that information to her, and whether it is ethical for that same school counselor to tell her parents of the pregnancy. If Melissa wanted her parents to know, she would have told them herself. The fact that she came to her counselor instead should be justification enough that she does not want her parents made aware of her condition. She has that legal right, and she should also have that ethical right in that she should have her privacy protected.
If Donna chooses to tell Melissa's parents she will breach Melissa's trust and go against what she realistically knows the girl wants to do. That could jeopardize her relationship with Melissa and other students who need and want to be able to…