Good morning Chairman Levine and members of the Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on constitutional Amendments, 

To clarify and expand on my testimony this morning, the proposed constitutional amendment by Delegate Cole is so broad that it serves to entirely strip young people of all autonomy, bodily or otherwise. The amendment is unnecessary and in possible conflict with well settled case law and statutory law that properly balances the recognition of parental authority with the recognized autonomy of a mature minor over their body and their capacity to consent to treatment. 

Virginia’s Judicial Bypass, parental consent and notification requirements are in fact also too restrictive and go beyond both constitutional precedent and common sense and evidence-based research. Forced parental involvement laws do not stop or decrease the rate of abortions by minors. According to a 2009 literature review by Guttmacher: “The clearest documented impact of parental involvement laws is an increase in the number of minors traveling outside their home states to obtain abortion services in states that do not mandate parental involvement or that have less restrictive laws.” Forcing minors to cross state lines where laws are less restrictive does not protect the best interest of the minor or protect the cohesion of the family unit. Instead, it delays access to health care and forces young people who likely have a network of support in their home to stay away from that support system.

The Constitutional Amendment, as drafted, would not just prevent the government from intervening when a parent abuses their child and that abuse falls short of severe bodily harm or causing the death of a minor. This bill also entirely ignores the psychological/emotional harm to children. Abuse is not always physical. Emotional abuse can have consequences as dire and as long-lasting as physical beatings. This bill removes important guardrails and tools that the state can use to intervene when a young person is in an abusive situation. 

This bill strips young people  of any rights to determining their destinies or bodily and emotional autonomy. It is so broad it may be interpreted to prevent: 1)  judicial bypass in cases when a young person seeks abortion care; 2) a young person from having access to reproductive healthcare such as birth control; 3) prevent schools from having policies that empower LGBTQ youth; 4) the state from ensuring that kids are educated. It will give parents – all parents, whether good or bad, abusive or not, misguided or not – complete control over every aspect of their children’s lives and destinies, denying basic autonomy and humanity to children and youth. 

As I said in my oral testimony – children are NOT property. They are autonomous beings and deserve to be protected, sometimes even from their parents. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Thank you for your consideration, 

Galina Varchena, Policy Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia

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