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Today, the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families, and Children heard a proposal that would require 2-parent notification prior to an abortion if the patient is under the age of 18. HB 1370 piles on to existing restrictions mandating one parent or guardian provide written consent.

Parent notification laws are opposed by major medical groups like the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association because research has shown they do not increase parental involvement, do not foster healthy communication, and in fact can be very detrimental to the health and safety of young women like Jeannie Lahman was when she was 16 years-old. Jeannie testified in front of the committee, telling a deeply personal story of survivorship and why the Missouri Legislature should say NO to this bill. Read her full testimony:

A March 2016 column published by the Jefferson City News Tribune and penned by Senator Mike Kehoe began with the following statement: “Since the beginning of January, the Legislature has worked on legislation that represents the traditional values of Missourians…”

Do traditional values of Missourians include forcing a child to incubate a fetus and then force her in to a life of motherhood she never wanted and a life of poverty she cannot escape?  I can assure you that if a child is pregnant, it is symptomatic of a dysfunctional family who more than likely can serve no support to her in the future,  as they obviously have not in the past.

I speak from experience.  In 1986 I became pregnant at the age of sixteen and was never given a choice as to whether I would carry to term or not.  My inept, abusive, drunken, ‘christian’ parents made that decision for me. 

You must understand that I lived my entire childhood under the threat of physical violence.  Both of my parents were alcoholics and their tempers and fights were explosive.  I was subjected to sexual abuse from the age of four, committed by many people at many different times throughout my childhood.  When I was fourteen, my mother would use me as ‘bait’ at local bars to lure men for her own satisfaction.  When I was fifteen, I worked after school washing dishes at a local café.  It was there that I met a man who was thirteen years older than me who so easily led me to believe that he was different from my parents and would take care of me.  He was 29 years old.  A pedophile.  My parents did nothing to stop any of this and ultimately, I became pregnant. 

Just so you know, that pedophile moved on to a thirteen year old girl.  Her parents did something.  He spent twenty years in the MO Dept of Corrections.  Unfortunately though, he is currently a non-compliant sex offender living in Moniteau County who is not current on his registration.  Maybe a better way to protect girls would be to lock up this predator for life.  But I suppose that is another topic for another day. 

My parents refused to obtain health insurance for me or enroll me in Medicaid.  That birth cost tens of thousands of dollars due to a C-section and a six day hospital stay (I was too young and underdeveloped to deliver, my hips were too narrow) .  As part of my punishment for becoming pregnant, my parents decided I should begin my life as a parent in gross poverty, owing thousands of dollars to a hospital and doctor.  It was those bills that forced me into bankruptcy when I was only eighteen years old.

HB 1370 requiring both parents to be notified before a minor can have an abortion is cruel punishment to a child.  The republicans in the legislature consider this ‘protecting innocent life’.  I have to ask, what about the life of the child you are forcing to carry to term a pregnancy she isn’t prepared for?

What about her innocence? 

As a side note, since my parents offered me no financial assistance, I quit high school in the fall of my senior year and began the exhausting life of working two jobs just trying to ‘make it’.  I am proud to say I have been in the labor force since I was fourteen years old.  I have never had the luxury of staying at home and having someone else do the work and pay the bills. 

In addition to working two jobs, both at very low wages (which included employment with the state of Missouri), I had to rely on public assistance for over two decades to supplement my income and the needs of my family.  Medicaid, food stamps, rental assistance, daycare assistance, Head Start, WIC, free school lunches, etc. were all needed so I could provide that child a semi-decent life.  For a political party that touts, ’smaller government’, you are creating more need for assistance by creating barriers to abortion care for minors.  Your party continues to cut services to needy Missourians all the while professing your ‘traditional values’ a.k.a. Christianity.

You are forcing a child to carry to term a pregnancy she does not want and then systematically deny her benefits to assist her in raising that child. 

I strived to excel and to make a life that my parents could not and would not give me.  My son went on to graduate high school and college.  I broke the cycle of poverty. 

I hope my story can help you understand that not all girls come from the same type of home.  Not all girls have parents who love and protect them from all harm.  Not all girls have a support system to get them through the rough times in life.  Not all girls are as strong as I am.

 I ask you to vote no against this detrimental bill to girl’s health.  Please vote NO on HB 1370.

-Jeannie Lahman