Parental notification, if it’s OK with the school

I’m not a gambler. If I were, I’d bet heavily that a certain guidance counselor from Farmington will be getting an award this year from at least one abortion advocacy group. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has placed her in the spotlight by ruling in her favor in a wrongful-termination case.

From the April 10 New Hampshire Union Leader, “Judge Says Abortion Decision is Flawed”:

In November 2012, [guidance counselor Demetria] McKaig was working with a pregnant 15-year-old student and her boyfriend, who told her they wanted to terminate a pregnancy. McKaig suggested that the student tell her mother, but she refused, saying she was fearful for her safety.

Under a state law that took effect in January 2012, pregnant girls under 18 seeking an abortion must notify their parents or get a judge’s approval for the procedure.

McKaig contacted the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union for assistance in preventing the girl’s mother from finding out about the pregnancy, even though Farmington High Principal Matt Jozokos ordered school staff to inform the mother.

McKaig’s contract was non-renewed for insubordination, breach of student confidentiality and neglect of duties.

But the state’s highest court agreed with the state Board of Education’s conclusion that “to avoid insubordination, McKaig was required only to discuss her disagreement with the principal, which she did.” 

It took two tries to get New Hampshire’s parental notification law in place without legal challenge. It has a judicial bypass provision to keep the U.S. Supreme Court happy.  If an abortion-vulnerable pregnant young woman who is still a minor is afraid “mom’s going to kill me” – whether or not that fear is well-founded – she can go to a judge. Abortion providers will be glad to help. The judge does not have the role of giving permission for the abortion. Instead, the judge makes a determination whether or not the minor is mature enough to make her own decision.

If a judge rules that the minor is not mature enough, she can always go to another judge.

In the Farmington case, the parental notification law was not at issue. The quarrel was between the school and the counselor whose contract was not renewed. The court on a 4-1 vote found in the counselor’s favor.

Let the record show that Justice Robert Lynn declined to endorse the result. “Because I cannot join the bandwagon of political correctness that provides the only justification for the majority’s decision, I respectfully dissent,” he wrote.

“Privacy” cloaks many things about this case, this pregnancy, this abortion. Was statutory rape involved? Was sexual or domestic abuse involved? If the pregnant young women feared for her safety at home, should a child abuse report have been filed? There is a state law that anyone who suspects child abuse is supposed to report it to DCYF. Did the counselor do that on her way to the ACLU-NH office?

Passage of the parental notification law was a hard-fought and necessary victory. It’s about parental rights and the safety of pregnant adolescents, though, not about the right to life. And as the Farmington case implies, the law leads to troubling questions about the “counseling” some pregnant students receive at public expense.



Author: Ellen Kolb

New Hampshire-based writer, pro-life activist, hiker.