No Adequate Viewer Notification from Hyman
I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but the latest “Point” reminds us yet again that Mark Hyman’s main shortcoming is not the specific positions he advocates (as wrongheaded as they usually are) but the fundamentally dishonest way he argues them.
In his latest editorial, Hyman complains that Planned Parenthood of New England is trying to have a New Hampshire law struck down that requires parents be notified before a minor has an abortion. Hyman says,
The abortion-on-demand crowd believes that a 13-year old girl - who can't watch
"R"-rated movies without an adult - should be able to quietly get an abortion
without ever notifying mom or dad.
Hyman suggests that the complaints about the unconstitutionality of the New Hampshire are based on claims that anyone of any age should be able to get an abortion when they want and that this law prevents that. The problem is that this characterization has nothing to do with the facts of the case (Ayotte v Planned Parenthood of Northern New England).
The challenge to the constitutionality of the New Hampshire law is based solely on issues of health of the mother. The challengers of the law point out that the language of the law does not adequately provide for emergency situations in which a doctor must make a judgment call about the health of the mother. The law (so the challengers argue) would have the effect of intimidating doctors into tending to choose not to perform abortions in borderline cases when consent wasn’t immediately available.
Some might argue that Planned Parenthood and fellow opponents of the law are simply finding a convenient way of opposing a law they have more general objections to. Could be. I don’t know. The only thing that can be said for sure is on what legal grounds the challenge has been made, and those grounds are confined solely to issues involving the rights of the mother to have a doctor make decisions based solely on their professional opinion, not fear of legal retribution.
Moreover, although Hyman implies that this is a case of Planned Parenthood complaining about a law they don’t like, the fact is that two courts, the District Court and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals (the only courts who have ruled on the law), have found the law unconstitutional. It is the state attorney general of New Hampshire who has appealed this case to the Supreme Court (over the objections of the state’s current governor). Whatever one’s position on the issue, it’s difficult to suggest the complaints about the law are unreasonable or, to use Hyman’s term, “absurd” given the rulings by the lower courts.
Parental notification in and of itself is not a bad idea. True, there are horror stories of fundamentalist parents taking vengeance on their daughters for their “sins.” On the other hand, there’s little evidence that such stories are common, and it’s difficult to argue that while a parent must be informed about nearly every aspect of a child’s treatment by social institutions (schools, the legal system, etc.) that parents have no right whatsoever to know if their child undergoing a surgical procedure like abortion.
A well-written law that makes adequate room for exceptions to parental notification in cases where the health or life of the mother is in danger (either because of a medical condition or because of a reasonable suspicion of abuse at the hands of the parents) would likely be constitutional and address the reasonable concerns of all. At least, there are reasonable and sound arguments to be made on both sides of the issue.
But when it comes to important and subtle issues such as this, it’s more important than ever that both sides make their arguments in good faith. That’s not what we get from Hyman, who deliberately misleads his audience about the nature and context of the objections to the law in order to score points in the realm of public opinion rather than making an ethically sound case based on its merits.
In so doing, Hyman does violence both to the public sphere and to the truth.
And that’s The Counterpoint.
Hyman Index: 4.24