I agree with Hillary.
No, not the one in America. I mean Hillary Kieft, the very ordinary, every-day mum from Stratford whose courage, determination and honesty have made her into a hero for parents around the nation.
She is the woman whose daughter used an allowance in the law to have a secret abortion on the advice of strangers– and subsequently attempted suicide.
Hillary’s petition to Parliament asking for a law change was not about abortion, nor was it about a woman’s rights.
It was about the relationship between parents and their child. It was about the right of mums and dads to know when their girls are considering a serious medical procedure with known serious, significant side effects.
As Maori TV put it this week, it was about a law that allows serious, adult-sized secrets to be borne by children and kept from their parents.
Hillary experienced the tragedy that ensues from secret teenaged abortions first hand. She had an abortion that she hid from her own mother, in her words, because of the shame. Her daughter then did the same, and nearly paid for it with her life.
So devastating have the consequences been for this family that Hillary has sworn that she will fight for as long as it takes to get a law change.
Already, that vow has taken her to the steps of Parliament and into a room where 10 politicians – four (occasionally five) of them childless from what I could find – sat listening to her story while the TV cameras rolled. And then, quoting drastically incorrect figures for the size of the problem, they turned her down.
Yes Jacqui Dean, Jacinda Ardern, Christopher Bishop, Jono Naylor, Maureen Pugh, Metiria Turei (replaced by Jan Logie occasionally), Louise Upston, Louisa Wall – these are the politicians who decided that “best practice” and “support person” are suitable words to replace the word “parent”.
These are the politicians who have decided that a child should be required to bear the full burden of a decision adults struggle with, and adults are broken by.
These are the politicians who require a child to weigh up the pros and cons of a serious medical procedure alone.
Only Marama Fox and Denis O’Rourke pointed out that the law is currently based on a “presumption of competence” that a child can make an adult decision, and that “health professionals then effectively take the parents’ place”.
Only they seemed to understand that strangers just don’t care like a mum and dad do.
Yes, there are rubbish mum and dads out there who fail to care, but good and loving parents are being legislated out of their childrens’ lives because of the few rubbish ones who grab the spotlight.
And that is why Hillary is a hero.
Because what she climbed the stairs of Parliament for, what she sat and faced 10 politicians for, what she now fights for, was nothing more and nothing less than her right as a parents to know about one of the most significant decisions her child would ever make while in her care.
It was about her right to parent her own child.
And that’s why I agree with Hillary. I agree that the law needs to change, that it is heartless, cold and damaging. I agree – more than ever before now that I hold my own son in my arms – that a parent’s desire for their child’s wellbeing is more mighty than any other bond, and ought to be upheld as sacred by our politicians. I agree that family cannot be replaced by well-meaning workers. I agree that teenagers are kids who still need mum and dad.
And that is why I will be standing with her until the battle is won.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz