Home Opinion OPINION: Conservative hypocrisy on the rights of parents hits a new low

OPINION: Conservative hypocrisy on the rights of parents hits a new low

There are a lot of excellent reasons to oppose laws that require parental approval when young women under the age of 18 seek abortion care.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet an Indiana couple who lost their teenage daughter to such a law. Terrified of admitting her pregnancy to her parents as the law required before she could obtain safe and legal care, the young woman sought a back-alley abortion and soon died from an infection caused by the procedure. In their grief and guilt, the parents became powerful voices of opposition to such laws.

But one need not contemplate such a tragedy to see the absurdity and hypocrisy of mandatory parental involvement laws for abortion care. The mere fact that giving birth is vastly more dangerous to the pregnant person’s health and well-being than a safe, early-term abortion is more than enough to make this plain.

Indeed, if it were parental rights and prerogatives that the conservative crusaders were truly concerned about, they would pass laws requiring parental consent for carrying pregnancies to term. That they don’t do so makes clear that the real and overriding objective of such laws is preventing abortions — not validating parental rights.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, this same brand of conservative hypocrisy has been on display of late in another culture war crusade in North Carolina. At issue is the matter of providing healthcare to young people struggling with gender dysphoria.

As NC Newsline’s Joe Killian detailed recently in a special report entitled “Trans patients and their doctors struggle with confusion, fear under healthcare bans,” North Carolina’s new law banning gender-affirming care for minors makes a mockery of the idea of parental rights.

The law, which Republican legislators enacted over a gubernatorial veto, bans all gender-affirming medical care — from puberty blockers and hormone treatment to various surgeries — for anyone under 18 irrespective of their doctor’s advice and parents’ consent.

It also prohibits state funds and Medicaid dollars from being used for such care, directly or indirectly. Doctors providing such care could face civil penalties and lose their medical licenses under the new law.

Think about that for a minute.

The self-proclaimed champions of parental rights and control over children’s lives have enacted a state law that prohibits loving and responsible parents from obtaining medical care for their children.

This isn’t a matter of the state inserting itself into broken families beset by abuse and neglect, or situations in which delusional parents expose their kids to purveyors of snake oil.


As Killian’s story notes, the care in question has been in use for four decades, during which studies have repeatedly shown it leads to better mental health outcomes for transgender youth, dramatically lower levels of depression and suicidal ideation. It’s broadly supported by the nation’s largest and most respected medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association and the Endocrine Society.

What’s next, a law that bars children from talking to counselors who aid people with gender dysphoria? A law that bars particular types of pediatric cancer treatment? A law that bars vaccination?

State Rep. John Autry of Mecklenburg County knows a great deal about this subject — more than any of the sponsors of the care ban. During debate on the bill that became the new state law (as well as several others of the same ilk), he explained with great insight and passion how gender-affirming care has provided enormous benefits to his grandchild.

As he also did in a Charlotte Observer op-ed earlier this year, Autry detailed his grandchild’s carefully managed transition, the thought and care her parents, physicians and therapists have provided, and how it may very well have saved her life.

Rep. Autry’s powerful words echo those of a mom featured in Killian’s story named Debra who shared a similar story regarding her child, as well as those of numerous North Carolina physicians and nurses — some of whom were cowed by right-wing threats into not revealing their names and workplaces in Killian’s report.

As is so often the case with the political right’s assaults on modernity, many people of means will likely figure out a way to get around the law. Just as wealthy women in need of abortion care regularly find a way to get to safe places where they can obtain the services they need, many families struggling with gender dysphoria will do likewise. Some are already moving to other states.

For others, however — particularly families of low-income for whom care was already elusive — the new law constitutes an official government-issued condemnation to years of suffering, heartache, and in some instances, an early death.

Meanwhile, as with so many other priorities that supposedly motivated Republicans when they took control of the General Assembly more than a decade ago — things like transparency, open debate, ending mandates on local government and fighting corruption and nepotism — “parental rights” will be shown to be nothing more than a convenient ruse that’s used selectively to impose a very narrow and specific belief system on all North Carolinians.

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast. Republished from ncnewsline.com.