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Many jurisdictions have laws applying to minors and abortion. These parental involvement laws require that one or more parents consent or be informed before their minor daughter may legally have an abortion.


Minors and abortion in law

Law in Canada

In Canada, abortion care is subject to general medical legislation, as there are no special laws regulating abortion. Access varies by province and by region; though there are no legal restrictions to abortion. Most medical care facilities in Canada observe a minor's ethical right to medical confidentiality, and they do not share medical information with a parent without consent of the patient. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that the woman's partner has no right to veto her decision to undergo an abortion. Abortion care, as with the rest of medical care, is funded by the government.[1][2]

Law in the United States

Map showing which states require parental notification.      No parental notification or consent laws      One parent must be informed beforehand      Both parents must be informed beforehand      One parent must consent beforehand      Both parents must consent beforehand      Parental notification law currently enjoined      Parental consent law currently enjoined

In the United States, most states typically require one of two types of parental involvement– consent and/or notification. As of September 2008, 35 states required some type of parental involvement in a minor's decision to have an abortion– 22 states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, 11 require one or both parents be notified and 2 require both consent and notification before an elective abortion can occur.[3] Parental involvement laws played a key role in forcing the Court to clarify its position on abortion regulation. The Court ruled, in essence, that parental involvement laws (and all other abortion regulation) can legally make it more difficult for a female to acquire an abortion. But there is a threshold beyond which the increased difficulties become unconstitutional. Requiring spousal consent before a woman can acquire an abortion has been interpreted as falling on the unconstitutional side of that threshold, while parental involvement has been interpreted as falling on the constitutional side. Or, to use the language of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992), spousal consent laws place an "undue burden" on a woman's ability to get an abortion, whereas parental involvement laws do not.

Parental involvement laws have three basic features. First, they are binding on minors, not adults. Second, they require, at minimum, that minors notify their parents before an abortion is performed, and in some cases consent from the parents. And third, they allow minors to acquire a judicial bypass if consent cannot be acquired. These regulations are but one example of the detailed fabric of abortion legislation and regulation that has evolved since the Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.

The first major case involving parental involvement legislation was decided in 1976 in Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth. This case involved a Missouri law that required consent from various parties before an abortion could be performed– written consent by the patient, spousal consent for married individuals, and parental consent for minors, specifically. The court ruled that the parental consent provision was unconstitutional due to its universal enforcement.

The ability of a minor to acquire an abortion against her parent's wishes became a recurring theme in several more cases following Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth. Bellotti v. Baird (1979) addressed a Massachusetts law that required a minor to acquire parental consent before an abortion was performed. But, unlike the Danforth case, this law allowed for judicial bypass if consent could not be acquired. Similar reasoning can be found in H.L. v. Matheson (1981). This case ruled on the relatively milder regulation of parental notification as opposed to parental consent. In this case, the Court ruled that parental notification is constitutional since the parent could not veto the adolescent's final decision to acquire an abortion. In Planned Parenthood of Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983), the Supreme Court ruled conclusively on the constitutionality of parental consent laws– parental consent was found to be constitutional so long as it also allowed a judicial bypass if such consent could not be acquired. In Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992), the Court placed parental involvement firmly within a broader set of legal principles governing a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. Parental involvement, and other regulations, were constitutional so long that they did not place an "undue burden" on a woman's ability to acquire an abortion.


Arguments in support

Advocacy groups have made a number of arguments in favor of parental notification.

  • Minors must have parental approval for most types of medical procedures.[4]
  • A study by the Heritage Foundation stated that overall, parental involvement laws reduce the number of teenage abortions.[5]
  • The pregnant minor might be pressured into having an abortion by an older boyfriend, so as to conceal the fact that he is guilty of statutory rape.[6]
  • Currently, the parents of the minor are financially responsible for any complications resulting from the abortion, unless said minor has been legally emancipated.[7]
  • Notification and consent laws give parents a chance to counsel their teenage daughters about the possible consequences of abortion.[8]

Arguments in opposition

Advocacy groups on the other side have also made a number of arguments against parental notification:

  • Parental notification and consent laws increase the numbers of back alley abortions:
  • Women's health organizations believe that in states that have notification or consent laws, there has been an increase in unsafe, illegal, "back alley" abortions.[9][10 ] In 2005, the Detroit News reported that a 16-year-old boy beat his pregnant, under-age girlfriend with a bat at her request to abort a fetus. The young couple avoided getting parental permission to receive an abortion.[11][12][13] In Indiana, where there are also parental consent laws, a young woman by the name of Becky Bell died from a back-alley abortion rather than discuss her pregnancy and wish for an abortion with her parents.[14][15] In Idaho, 13-year-old Spring Adams was shot to death by her father when he found out that she was planning to abort a pregnancy caused by his incestuous rape.[16]
  • Many young women feel they cannot talk to their parents about their sex lives or about rape or incest that they may have suffered, and may seek illegal abortions as a result.[10 ]
  • In states that have notification or consent laws, minors will sometimes travel to a nearby state to have an abortion.[17] Delays mean increased risks:
  • Delaying an abortion even if only by a couple of days, increases the likelihood of complications arising from abortion procedures. In fact, legal abortions before the third trimester are less dangerous than childbirth for teens as they are 24 times more likely to die from childbirth complications than from a legal abortion performed in the first trimester. However, the risk of death or major complications significantly increases for each week into pregnancy, particularly if the abortion is delayed until the third trimester.[18]
  • Judge Nixon of The District Court in Tennessee estimated "that even under the best of circumstances, the [judicial] waiver process would take twenty-two days to complete– a significant problem given the time-sensitive nature of pregnancy and the increased risk involved in later abortions."[19]
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that "Legislation mandating parental involvement does not achieve the intended benefit of promoting family communication, but it does increase the risk of harm to the adolescent by delaying access to appropriate medical care...[M]inors should not be compelled or required to involve their parents in their decisions to obtain abortions, although they should be encouraged to discuss their pregnancies with their parents and other responsible adults."[20]
  • An American Medical Association study in 1992 showed that mandatory parental involvement laws "increase the gestational age at which the induced pregnancy termination occurs, thereby also increasing the risk associated with the procedure."[21]
  • A study of abortions by researchers at Baruch College at City University of New York showed that Texas teens who were between 17 years, 6 months old and 18 years old were 34% more likely to have an abortion in the much riskier second trimester than young women who were 18 or older when they became pregnant.[22]
  • Lawrence Finer, spokesperson for the Guttmacher Institute said: "It just shows how laws like this can lead to health risks for teens. Abortion is a safe procedure, but it's less safe later in the pregnancy." He suggest that parental involvement laws have a small effect on abortion rates compared with improved sexual education and birth control access and usage.
  • Many minors of childbearing age are sufficiently mature to make abortion decisions by themselves.[23]
  • Other Reproductive Health issues such as STD testing and treatment do not require parental consent.

Debate within the Roman Catholic Church

In 2009, Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho excommunicated, or rather declared excommunicated (since the canon law invoked imposes the excommunication automatically), the mother and doctors of a 9-year-old girl for carrying out an abortion on the girl's twin fetuses, after she was raped by her own stepfather, something that had been happening since she was six years old. [24] The affair shocked the Brazilian government [24] and provoked disgust from President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Pope Benedict XVI later gave a controversial speech in Angola where he appeared to blur the distinction between indirect abortion and direct abortion. He condemned all forms of abortion, even those considered to be therapeutic. This raised the eyebrows of the Vatican communications department, which re-iterated the distinction between direct and indirect abortion.[25] [26]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ CBC Trust
  3. ^ "State Policies in Brief, An Overview of Abortion Laws" (PDF). Guttmacher Institute. 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2007-05-27.  
  4. ^ "Age of Majority." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2nd Ed. Ed. Jeffrey Lehman and Shirelle Phelps. Gale Cengage, 2005. 2006. 25 Sep, 2008 < age-majority>
  5. ^ Heritage Foundation
  6. ^ Mahkorn, "Pregnancy and Sexual Assault," The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, eds. Mall & Watts, (Washington, D.C., University Publications of America, 1979) 55-69
  7. ^ "Age of Majority." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2nd Ed. Ed. Jeffrey Lehman and Shirelle Phelps. Gale Cengage, 2005. 2006. 25 Sep, 2008
  8. ^
  9. ^ Choice Matters
  10. ^ a b Pro Choice America "In Your State"
  11. ^ Detroit News: Boy faces felony in baseball bat abortion
  12. ^ Baseball Bat Abortion Boulder Weekly
  13. ^ NARAL - Michigan
  14. ^ Pacifica Radio
  15. ^ Planned Parenthood
  16. ^ Spring Adams
  17. ^ Religious Tolerance
  18. ^ Religious Tolerance
  19. ^ CARAL Reproductive Health and right Center, "District Court Invalidates Tennessee Parental Consent for Abortions"
  20. ^ American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Adolescence, "The Adolescent's Right to Confidential Care When Considering Abortion," Pediatrics, Vol. 97, # 5 (1996-MAY), Page 746.
  21. ^ American Medical Association, "Induced Termination of Pregnancy Before and After Roe v. Wade, Trends in the Mortality and Morbidity of Women," JAMA, Vol. 268, # 22 (1992-DEC), Page 3238.
  22. ^ Lisa Falkenberg: "Study: Texas parental law might lower– and delay– teen abortion" Houston Chronicle, 2006-MAR-09
  23. ^ BELLOTTI V. BAIRD, 443 U. S. 622 (1979) - Declares a Massachusetts parental consent law unconstitutional because it doesn't allow minors who are mature enough to consent to forgo parental consent requirements via a judicial bypass.
  24. ^ a b Ertelt, Steven (2008-03-05). "Brazil Catholic Church Excommunicates Doctors Who Did Abortion on Little Girl". Retrieved 2009-03-07.  
  25. ^ Pope reiterates church ban on abortion
  26. ^ Radio Vatican

External links

In support

In opposition


  •– Non-partisan Analysis of California's Proposition 85 (Parental Notification & Waiting Period for Minors' Abortions– November 2006 Election)

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