Parental-involvement laws take two forms: Some require young people to notify their parents before having an abortion, while others require explicit permission.
Many young people who face an unintended pregnancy are able to turn to their parents or guardians for help and support. But some may reasonably fear the repercussions of involving their parents, especially if they come from violent or emotionally abusive homes, or are victims of rape or incest.
In these circumstances, parental-involvement laws can put young people in danger.
In some instances, telling abusive parents about an unplanned pregnancy can lead to further family violence. Fear of talking to their parents about an unintended pregnancy may cause a young person to delay seeking medical care, which increases medical risk. In the most dire of circumstances, some young people may resort to a dangerous and illegal self-induced abortion.
Young people have even attempted suicide rather than disclose their unintended pregnancies.1
These are some of the reasons why the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics both oppose mandatory parental involvement for young people seeking abortion care.2
The Supreme Court has ruled that parental-involvement laws must include some form of bypass procedure. But this is an inadequate alternative for young people who may find the process of obtaining judicial bypass overwhelming or impossible to navigate—especially without a lawyer.
It’s essential that a young person has access to every reproductive-health-care option, because an unintended pregnancy can have significant effects on their life. Four in 10 teen mothers do not finish high school, and fewer than 2 percent graduate from college by age 30.3 Forty-one percent of mothers who give birth before age 20 live in poverty.4 Infants of teen mothers are 25 percent more likely to suffer from low birth weight than those born to older mothers.5
Parental-involvement laws do not eliminate these risks. Instead, they jeopardize some young people’s ability to safely obtain health care.
Parental-involvement laws won’t reduce the frequency of abortion in this country, as anti-choice politicians may claim. All young people should be equipped with comprehensive sex education—and, for those who are sexually active, access to birth control—so they can prevent unintended pregnancies.
In Virginia, prior to obtaining an abortion, both notice and consent are required for a minor seeking the procedure. There is a Judicial Bypass process (Va Code Ann § 16.1-241) available to pregnant minors, but it is neither simple nor quick. We will continue to fight these unfair laws and educate the public and legislators about the negative consequences of placing these obstacles in front of minors seeking medical care. To learn more about judicial bypass in Virginia, click here.
2 American Academy of Pediatrics, Adolescent’s Right to Confidential Care When Considering Abortion