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Father Knows Best January 28, 2010

Posted by Sara Imershein MD in Healthcare.

Flash from the medieval era: West Virginia Delegate Ron Walters introduced H.B. 2254 to amend the Code of West Virginia “requiring notice of an abortion to be provided to the father of the unborn child.” The provision which has been referred to the Judiciary Committee requires:

At least seventy-two hours before any abortion is performed in the State of West Virginia, the father of the unborn child to be aborted shall be notified by the physician, clinic or medical facility performing the abortion, informing him that he has been named as the father, telling him the identity of the mother of the unborn child, and the time and place the abortion will be performed.

Mr. Walters must believe Father Knows Best and wants the West Virginia State Legislature to Make Room for Daddy. The proposal returns women to chattel, personal property whose decisions are subject to the approval of a man and government intrusion.

Each woman who considers ending a pregnancy faces a unique set of circumstances. Each woman’s story is her own, to be discussed with her health care provider and her own support system which may include husband, family, or friend… but is not to be dictated by paternalistic and oppressive laws.  read on…A woman’s health decisions should be made with accurate information and without pressure. Trusting women to make thoughtful decisions is the essence of respect for women and their families.  Anything less is a disrespectful intrusion on privacy and an insult to women.

The amendment waivers the notification requirement if the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life, or is the result of an illegal conception (rape, incest) ONLY after a complaint has been reported to police AND charges filed. Physicians and clinics must produce evidence demonstrating reasonable effort to locate the father. Furthermore, the woman who is unable (or unwilling?) to identify the father must produce a written statement for the Department of Health and Human Resources which becomes a part of the permanent record. What is the permanent record, anyway?

Finally, if passed, violation of Representative Walter’s draconian measure would be a misdemeanor. The patient would be fined the cost of the abortion. A physician, clinic, or medical facility, who fails to notify the father, or document a reasonable search effort, would be guilty of a misdemeanor with the fine ten times the cost of the abortion.

As a physician I know the pain and joy of pregnancy and childbirth. I trust a woman to know when she is ready to become a parent. Patronizing legislation requiring paternal approval is an insult to a woman’s autonomy and a barrier to medical care.

Learn more about the Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health:  doctors who care for women, trust women, and support their personal decisions.



1. Gretchen Giannelli - January 29, 2010

Sara, I agree that this is totally paternalistic and intrusive. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I wonder how many other states have similar laws.

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