Reducing Abortion through Parental Notification


Parental consent is required for most medical procedures children receive. 38 states [PDF] require parental consent and/or notification for a minor’s abortion. No state allows those younger than 16 to consent to sex. 45 states forbid minors from getting tattoos. Over 30 states regulate minors’ freedom to use indoor tanning services. Parents generally have the right to decide where their kids live and go to school. While there is debate over lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, few would advocate lowering it beyond that. Even after being issued a driver’s license, the majority of states still regulate minors’ unsupervised night driving and number of passengers.

The only question here is one pro-aborts will have a hard time answering: what makes abortion so different from every other major decision a minor might be involved in that the same standards have to be cast aside, by a judge’s gavel if necessary? (And no, “because the girl’s father might be abusing her” isn’t a valid answer, since the bill includes a judicial bypass for such situations).


Michael New, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, recently published a study on abortion in State Politics and Policy Quarterly demonstrating the effectiveness of pro-life laws.

The study, “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era,” evaluated abortion data from nearly every state over a span of 21 years, from 1985 to 2005 – a longer period than nearly any other peer-reviewed study. It contributes to a substantial body of social science research which finds that parental involvement laws and public funding restrictions are effective.

New found in his study that data from both the Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute provide solid evidence that Medicaid abortion funding restrictions, parental involvement laws and informed consent laws effectively lower abortion rates. His findings included that parental involvement laws reduce in-state abortion rates for minors by approximately 15 percent. This is among the first peer reviewed studies which shows that informed consent laws have an effect.

Dr. New issued a previous study in 2008 showing parental involvement laws reduce abortions anywhere from 19-31 percent for teenagers.

He also issued a prior study looking at 1985-1999 finding pro-life laws cut teen abortion rates by as much as 50 percent. Parental involvement laws were part of the reason for this decline but not the only reason.


In the best of circumstances, virtually everyone addressing the Washington State Senate’s Law and Justice Committee agreed parents were loving and supportive of their children — and such parents deserved the right to help them through a difficult decision.

But opponents of Senate Bill 5156, almost without exception, cited examples where teens did not feel safe confronting their parents with their pregnancy.

“Claims that requiring parental consent can result in harm are illogical and unsupported by the facts,” said John Clapper, a Tacoma obstetrician of 38 years. “It’s stunning and mystifying to me why Washington law treats termination of a pregnancy differently than any other surgical procedure. Children need their parents in a crisis — even one of their own making.”

“Let’s be clear about this,” said Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver), the bill’s prime sponsor. “You’re going to hear from a lot of people today who will testify that this bill prevents someone from having an abortion. It does nothing of the kind. This bill is simply about common sense.”

Thirty-nine other states already have parental notification laws on the books, he noted. Some even require parental consent — a much higher threshold to clear. And in the case of a minor who fears repercussions from her parents, the law includes a provision that she can petition the county Superior Court for a waiver.

“It simply amazes me that in a state where a minor can’t get her ears pierced or even go on a school field trip without parental consent, abortion is held to a lower standard,” Benton said. “Why do we elevate this particular procedure to a status above that of every other medical procedure? Why is it unique in medical science?”

“This law is 100 percent constitutional,” added attorney Kate Anderson. “It’s fairly unique among parental disclosure laws in that it allows for a judicial bypass in the case of a patient who doesn’t feel safe informing her parents. That process is confidential and quick, and it would not be the obstacle others testifying today have presented it to be.”

Roseburg, Ore., resident Grace Powers testified that her daughter had an abortion in that state after consulting with a school health official, who advised her to do so.

“She knew my daughter for five minutes,” Powers said. “She didn’t know our family at all. Did she have my daughter’s best interest at heart more than I do? She had an agenda of her own and she exploited a frightened young girl to advance it. And now my daughter is the one who will have to deal with that for the rest of her life.”


Impact of Parental Consent Laws on Abortion Rates:

bullet Minnesota: According to Pro-Life America, the number of legal teenage abortions were reduced by 25% in Minnesota after parental consent laws were introduced. It is not known what part of this reduction:

bullet Resulted in live births in place of abortions,
bullet Prompted teens to cross state lines and have an abortion where there are no parental consent laws
bullet Was caused by a reduction in the number of out-of-state teens who no longer come into Minnesota for abortions
bullet Was due to teens seeking illegal, back-alley abortions, or self-induced abortions
bullet Was 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.
bullet Was due to a general nation-wide drop in unwanted teenage pregnancies.
bullet Mississippi: 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.
bullet Virginia: 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.
bullet Texas: 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.


See Also:


Parental Notification and Intervention Act



The National Abortion Federation’s position on Parental Notification:

One of the most common types of abortion restrictions enacted at the state level are laws limiting a minor’s right to access abortion care. These bills generally require parental consent or parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion.

What They Do

Forty-four states have passed laws requiring either parental notification or consent, in some cases even by both parents. The Supreme Court has upheld parental involvement laws, but requires states to implement a “judicial bypass” mechanism, allowing minors to seek a court order rather than notifying their parents or obtaining their consent. The option of judicial bypass is not always a reality. For many minors, this is a frightening and daunting process. In some states the judicial bypass process is gravely flawed, and almost always results in delays for the minor in obtaining an abortion. The few states that have not yet passed parental involvement laws threaten to do so every year.

Many states that already have parental involvement laws on their books continue to introduce new parental involvement bills each year. The bills often impose new, stricter standards. For example, some states have added notarization requirements, increased the requirement from notice to consent, and made the judicial bypass mechanism more difficult for minors to access and navigate.

In addition, there is a new trend in parental involvement bills: bills that place various restrictions on a minor’s ability to travel to another state for an abortion. Such bills can penalize even family members who help teenagers access their full reproductive health options.

Dangers Of Parental Involvement Bills

Parental involvement bills pose a serious threat to the health of young women, and restrictive abortion laws may worsen family communication rather than promote it.

Even without state laws, in most cases parents know about their daughter’s decision to have an abortion. The young women who do not tell their parents often do so for compelling reasons such as emotional or physical abuse or incest. Rather than tell their parents, some teenagers resort to unsafe, illegal abortions, or try to perform the abortion themselves. In doing so, they risk serious injury and death.

In addition, teenagers are already more likely than older women to delay seeking reproductive health care. When teens know that they are forced by law to tell their parents or get their permission before obtaining care, they are less likely to access reproductive health care services in a timely manner. Although abortion is extremely safe, it is safest when completed earlier in pregnancy. Delays caused by these laws can result in increased health risks.

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