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Parental consent/notification for teen abortions:

A typical law. How they are circumvented.
Impact on abortion rate. Trying to pass a federal law

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Details of a typical parental involvement law:

The Nebraska parental notification law is typical. The Abortion & Contraception Clinic of Nebraska's web site describes a pregnant minor's options under the law. It should not be relied upon, as it might change at any time. What is true in Nebraska is not necessarily true in other states. 1

The law applies if the woman has not reached her 18th birthday at the time of her clinic appointment. Nebraska law requires one of the following:

bulletA parent or court-appointed guardian may come to the clinic with the pregnant woman and sign a statement acknowledging that they have been notified of the abortion, or
bulletA clinic doctor can inform a parent or court-appointed guardian by telephone. The latter then go to a notary public and sign a Parental Notification Affidavit. The woman would then bring the notarized document with her to the clinic appointment, or
bulletThe clinic can send a written notification to the parent or guardian by certified mail (with return receipt requested and restricted delivery) at least 72 hours before the appointment.
bulletThe woman may obtain a Judicial Waiver of Notification. She goes to the Juvenile Court Clerk's Office at her local county courthouse, or the courthouse in the clinic's county, or any adjacent county.  The judge will meet privately with the woman; she can be accompanied by her lawyer, and may request that others be present. The judge can take up to one week to decide whether to grant the waiver. If the request is denied, the woman may theoretically appeal to the state Supreme Court. However, this might not be an option because of cost or time restraints.

The Abortion & Contraceptive Clinic of Nebraska's web site has copies of a typical Parental Notification Affidavit and a Judicial Waiver Form.

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Circumventing parental involvement laws:

These restrictions are often circumvented in one of three ways:

bulletMost states with consent or notification laws allow a young woman to apply to the courts for permission to have an abortion without parental notification or consent. However, the Virginia consent law which took effect in 2003-JUL has an interesting twist. It allows the judge to inform the parents of the woman's pregnancy if she/he feels it is warranted. 2 Only the state of Utah has no provision for a judicial bypass. 3
bulletMany women simply travel to a nearby state or country which does not have a law requiring parental involvement.
bulletSome women seek an illegal abortion, with its additional health risks.

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Impact of Parental Consent Laws on Abortion Rates:

bulletMinnesota: According to Pro-Life America, the number of legal teenage abortions were reduced by 25% in Minnesota after parental consent laws were introduced. 4 It is not known what part of this reduction:
bulletResulted in live births in place of abortions,
bulletPrompted teens to cross state lines and have an abortion where there are no parental consent laws
bulletWas caused by a reduction in the number of out-of-state teens who no longer come into Minnesota for abortions
bulletWas due to teens seeking illegal, back-alley abortions, or self-induced abortions
bulletWas caused by teens realizing that a safe legal abortion was no longer an option for them, and so chose to remain celibate or to adopt an effective birth control method.
bulletWas due to a general nation-wide drop in unwanted teenage pregnancies.
bulletMississippi: According to Family Planning Perspectives, the parental consent law had little effect on the total number of abortions; it mainly changed where the abortions were performed. In the six months after the law went into effect in 1993, the ratio of minors to adults who sought abortions in Mississippi declined by 13%. However, this was offset by a 32% increase in the ratio of minors to adults who went out of state to obtain their abortion. The parental consent law also delayed many abortions. The the ratio of minors to adults who had an abortion after 12 weeks gestation increased by 19%. This inevitably led to an increased incidence of complications.
bulletVirginia: The abortion rate in Virginia dropped about 20% during the first 5 months after a law requiring parental notification came into effect in 1997-JUL. Much of the decrease was believed to be due to teens traveling to nearby Washington DC where they can freely obtain abortion.
bulletTexas: A study of abortions by researchers at Baruch College at City University of New York showed that since the parental notification law was implemented in Texas, abortion rates for teens aged 15 to 17 fell 11 to 20% more that the corresponding rate among 18 year-olds who were exempt from the law. Texas teens under 18 do not have ready access to abortions in other states because surrounding states have similar laws in place.

Lawrence Finer, spokesperson for the Guttmacher Institute suggested that parental involvement laws have a small effect on abortion rates compared with the effect of improved sexual education and birth control access and usage. 5

It is probable that total abortion rates would not be greatly affected by parental involvement laws unless almost all states had such legislation in place. Only then would young women be unable to simply go to an adjacent state for an abortion. 

Anne Kincaid promoted the Virginia parental notice law. She sees a change in attitude among teens: "One of the laudable consequences we've seen in other states is when the quick fix is no longer secret, then behavior changes. Then we see a reduction in pregnancy, perhaps by more responsible use of birth control or by actual abstinence." 6

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Attempts to pass a federal law requiring parental involvement:

In 1996 and 1997, Congress debated and rejected bills that would require parental involvement in abortions of women under the age of 18.

In mid-1998, Representative Ernest Istook (R-OK) proposed an amendment to the FY1999 Labor/Health and Human Services spending bill. The amendment would require either:

bulletthat women under the age of 18 who are seeking abortions at a Title 10 family planning clinic have the consent of a parent or guardian, or
bulletthat the clinic inform parents by registered mail 5 business days in advance of an abortion on a woman under the age of 18.

This bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on 1998-JUL-14. The bill was scheduled for debate in the house in 1998-SEP. It did not become law.  More information

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Note:

The above essay is for informational purposes only. It is not to be interpreted as legal or medical advice. Laws change frequently.

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References used:

The following sources of information were used in the preparation and updating of this essay. The Internet links are not necessarily still intact.

  1. The Nebraska parental notification law is described at: http://www.abortionclinics.org/
  2. "Virginia Approves Tougher Abortion Laws," Agape Press, 2003-SEP-9, at: http://headlines.agapepress.org/
  3. "Laws Requiring Parental Consent or Notification for Minors' Abortions," Planned Parenthood, 2003-DEC-30, at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
  4. Pro-Life America conducts a telephone poll on parental consent laws and other abortion topics at: http://207.217.39.158/900POLL.html
  5. Lisa Falkenberg: "Study: Texas parental law might lower — and delay — teen abortion," Houston Chronicle, 2006-MAR-09, at: http://www.chron.com/
  6. "Fewer Teens Getting Abortions in Virginia," at: http://www.catholic.org/

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 Home > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Legal aspects > Parental involvement > here

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Copyright © 1998 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1998-JUL-13
Latest update: 2006-MAR-12
Author: Bruce A Robinson

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