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Sunday, February 28

Parental Consent for Abortion

The US has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world. As you can see in the charts, the differences are stark. Yes, we do need more education and yes we do need more parental guidance. But if the teen decides to get an abortion, should she need parental consent as she is underage? Such consent is mandatory in 24 US. Most of the statutes apply to girls younger than 18 and provide for a court bypass procedure in case the girl is not able to involve her parents. Also most statutes include exceptions for medical emergencies.

On the one hand, supporters of the “required consent” camp, say that abortion is a form of medical procedure and as such parental consent should be required. The same way that parental consent is required for ear piercing, tattoos and appendectomies. Moreover, parents have the right to know what’s going on with their children’s lives. And others add that there is always the possibility that when parents find out, may offer support and long term help and thus avert the abortion.

Not so, the opponents of the measure assert. Parental consent is not legally required to have a baby. Why should it be different with the decision not to have one? And although parents may have the right to know what’s going on with their kids’ lives, what happens when the girl chooses abortion and the parents oppose it? Whose will should prevail? And don’t we make things worse –they ask- when we postpone the abortion by requiring an extra legal process to take place?

For the requirements in every state, you may go here You will see that some states have chosen a mid-solution. They require “parent notification.” If you are under 18, you have to tell your parents but you don’t need their consent.

What are your thoughts on the parental consent requirement?

Sunday, February 21

Unwanted Fatherhood

Yes, abortion is a controversial matter but mostly because the sides fight over the rights of the fetus. There is a minority however that tries to campaign for the rights of the father. Why, they ask, the woman may have a say over the future of her pregnancy and a man may not? So far, court decisions have sided against paternal involvement in the decision process. In 1978, in the UK, William Paton attempted to stop his separated wife from having an abortion but the judge ruled against him. He took the case to the European Court of Human Rights which also ruled in favor of the wife. Similarly, in 1989, Jean-Guy Tremblay in Canada, tried to stop his girlfriend from having an abortion. The Supreme Court of the country ruled that there was no precedent for a man’s right to protect a potential progeny. And so on and so on.

Here comes a 25-year old programmer from Michigan, who says that if men are not allowed to protect a potential progeny, they should not have to pay child support either if the pregnancy occurred against the men’s will. The young programmer says that his former girlfriend assured him she could have no children and knew he did not want any. When she got pregnant, he offered to pay for the abortion or give up the baby for adoption. The girlfriend instead sued him for a $500 per month child support payment. And as you can guess, she won.

Think about it. Women have all the rights not to become parents. They may choose to abort, or give up the baby for adoption, or simply leave the baby at a hospital. The law is explicit that women are entitled to avoid unwanted parenthood. Why aren’t men protected similarly? Indeed the National Center for Men has drafted a proposition called “Roe v. Wade for men” which gives men the right, when faced with unwanted parenthood, to resort to a “financial abortion”. If the pregnancy occurred against their will, and if it is early in pregnancy, then, they would like to have the right to be released from any future financial responsibilities. "When it comes to reproduction in America today, women have rights and men merely have responsibilities" (Glenn Sacks, 2008, quoted here.)

It’s only fair the National Center for Men says.

What do you say? (Don’t debate the abortion issue please. The question focuses on men’s rights.)

Sunday, February 14

Individual vs. the group

Although close to 14% of school districts have reported having a uniforms policy, the idea has been hotly debated. On the one hand, supporters claim that it bridges some differences between poor and more affluent students. Also they point to the lack of worrying over what to wear, something that promotes efficiency and boosts a unitary school spirit. School administrators finally spend less time on enforcing a dress code. On the other hand, opponents point to the cost of purchasing a uniform which may impose an extra burden on parents (although a donation program is alleviating the burden).But most importantly they lament over the loss of individualism and the reign of group mentality.

Not so, protest the supporters. They point to other countries, like Japan, where the majority of schools have enforced a uniform policy and the debate is almost non-existent. They also refer to the case of the snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Play the video and look at the way the young athlete on the left wears his clothes. In the end of the video he is apologizing as his appearance caused uproar back in Japan. The Ski Association of Japan stated that “It is not the way the Japanese delegation should dress themselves while taxpayers' money is spent on them" and debated whether to kick Kokubo out of the Games altogether. You see, the idea that one should be punished for offending the group is not difficult to swallow. The Japanese Olympic Committee however decided to only ban him from participating in the opening ceremonies and allow him to compete later in his event.

Consequently, the supporters assert, adherence to group rules becomes more important if taxpayers are paying for it. Therefore, school uniforms, are fair game.

How do you feel about it? Would you go along or oppose it?

Sunday, February 7

Vote on the 2011 federal budget

As the debate for universal health coverage inflamed moods and while half truths were thrown back and forth from all sides, one argument that struck me as peculiar was “I am not paying for your health care.” It did take me aback for a moment because it came from a seventy-year old man. Whose health care the tax payer is financing to a serious extent at least. Let us not forget that 80% of our budget in 2008 was financed by the tax payer and the rest by borrowing. Which will have to be paid back by the future tax payers. Everything is traced back to our pockets in other words.

Allocation of tax money has been hottly debated across countries. In some, the electorate acts on a collective sentiment of shared responsibilities and rights. In others, the electorate has chosen a more individualistic approach. For example, visitors to northern European countries are struck by the extent of social benefits. And the level of taxation of course. They even have universal child care as decades ago the Swedish government realized that if it were to capitalize fully on the female part of their labor market, they had better offer a sound solution to the babysitting problem. (The centers BTW open at 6:30, stay open for 12 hours and accept children older than one year of age.) Their social benefits include secure pensions, universal everything… decent housing for the elderly and significant unemployment benefits.How much tax do they pay? Higher than ours. For a family with one wage-earner and two children, only Iceland and Ireland have a lower income tax burden than the U.S, whereas Sweden, Turkey, France and Poland impose the greatest tax burdens on families. It is my understanding however that property tax has not been co assessed so the US tax rates are probably higher.

 But before you jump condemning those darn “socialist” countries, remember one basic thing that many politicians forget when they blast at them. The electorate in these countries voted in such a system. Blasting their system is equal to insulting millions of Europeans and Canadians for thinking differently. And as we learned, ethnocentrism usually spreads blindness…

So, we have two different worlds, two different systems. The electorate in the US is reluctant towards a stronger safety net and they still debate the use of their tax dollars. However, much of the debating is missing focus since we lack concrete proposals on where to economize from. Fighting fraud and waste is good rhetoric but it won’t get you far since no bureaucratic system is immune to these ills. Suggesting certain cuts from a certain sector and reallocating them to another (even the one that pays back our debt) seems far more constructive. So here is the proposed budget for 2011.

How would you re-split the pie? And why? To have again a total picture please vote on the right which sector you think should face most of the cuts. Then vote again which sector the saved monies should go to.

Who knows? Maybe your representatives are reading us! :)