If immaturity should preclude execution, then apply same standard to adolescent abortion decision

LETTER — Posted Oct. 25, 2004

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Regarding "Death penalty for minors: Cruel and unusual" (Editorial, Sept. 27): If the American Medical Association believes that, as described in the words of your editorial, "adolescents, even at the age of 16 or 17, underestimate risks, overvalue short-term benefits, and are more emotionally volatile, more impulsive and less capable of controlling their emotions than adults," would the AMA make as strong of a statement regarding teen pregnancy and abortion?

Would the AMA be willing to say that state laws permitting pregnant minors' emancipation and the right to abortion to minors without parental consent are wrong? It is obvious that a 16-year-old who gets pregnant is not mature enough to manage birth control or to comprehend the ramifications of getting pregnant. Why do we naturally assume that they are mature enough to handle the physical and psychological ramifications of abortion?

If the AMA is basing its stand on the death penalty on science and a teen's ability to comprehend consequences, then they should make as strong of a statement against the right to abortion and emancipation to pregnant minors.

You see, unlike adolescents, the adults engaged in this argument have the powers and foresight and an ability to grasp the consequences of their actions. Thus, the AMA should do the right thing: Form a unified statement speaking out against the minors' right to emancipation and abortion when they become pregnant.

Derek Johnson, MD, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/10/25/edlt1025.htm.

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