Minors and abortion

Minors and abortion


Minors and abortion in law


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]

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, New Hampshire's abortion law allows a minor to get an abortion without parental consent or notification. 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 involvement 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 notification 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.

South Africa

In South Africa, any woman of any age can get an abortion on request with no reasons given if she is less than 13 weeks pregnant. A woman under the age of 18 will be advised to consult her parents, but she can decide not to inform or consult them if she so chooses.[4] However, she must give informed consent, meaning that if she is unable to understand the consequences of an abortion she cannot consent to one without the assistance of her parents or guardian.[5]


In 2009, the Socialist government started to liberalize current abortion laws, sending a new law through the lower house of Parliament which would allow abortion on-demand for pregnancies through the fourteenth week. The government almost succeeded in lowering the age of consent for abortions to 16, but in the end the bill states that girls aged 16 and 17 must inform her parents (but does not need parental consent) for an abortion except if the girl comes from an abusive household and such news will cause more strife.


All women coming to a health facility seeking termination of pregnancy up to 7 weeks period of gestation (49 days from the first day of the last menstrual period in women with regular cycle of 28 days) provided certain aspects have been assessed and found appropriate, one being permission of guardian in case of minor (as per MTP Act 1971).


Parental consent is always required if the woman seeking abortion is a minor.


The current legislation is the Abortion Act of 1974. This states that up until the end of the eighteenth week of the pregnancy the choice of an abortion is entirely up to the woman, for any reason whatsoever. The law makes no distinction with regards to the age of the pregnant woman.


A minor does not require parental consent or notification except in Western Australia, where in the event of the woman being under 16 years of age one of her parents must be notified, except where permission has been granted by the Children's Court or the woman does not live with her parents.

New Zealand

New Zealand has no parental notification restrictions on under-sixteen access for abortion. A recent attempt to introduce such restrictions into the Care of Children Act 2004 was heavily defeated in New Zealand's Parliament.


There are social pressures to protect women’s confidentiality, especially that of young women who are junior high or high school students. This may be taken to mean that there are no laws in Japan regarding this aspect of abortion.


Girls under the age of 18 must get written permission from a parent or guardian before being allowed an abortion.


According to this website, a pregnant girl under the age of 16 may ask for an abortion without consulting her parents first, but she has to be accompanied to the clinic by an adult of her choice.


Parental authorisation is required if the woman is under 18.

United Kingdom

Parental involvement laws are liberal in the UK; if the girl is seen as competent by medical staff no disclosure to parents is allowed. In most cases, girls aged 13 or above will be covered by this provision but pre-teenagers will not and parents, social workers and police can become involved to protect the child. Around 120 12-year-olds, at least five 11-year-olds and two nine year olds have had legal abortions since 1996. In 2005, Sue Axon, of Manchester, wanted the law changed to prevent girls under 16 getting confidential advice. However, the High Court had rejected a review of guidelines which state that terminations do not need parents' consent and doctors should respect girls' confidentiality. Parents can however be informed


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.[6]
  • A study by the Heritage Foundation stated that overall, parental involvement laws reduce the number of teenage abortions.[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • Currently, the parents of the minor are financially responsible for any complications resulting from the abortion, unless said minor has been legally emancipated.[9] (However, this is also true for any complications that result from illegal abortions, which are typically more risky)
  • Notification and consent laws give parents a chance to counsel their teenage daughters about the possible consequences of abortion.[10]

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.[11][12] 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.[13][14][15] 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.[16][17] 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.[18]
  • 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.[12]
  • In states that have notification or consent laws, minors will sometimes travel to a nearby state to have an abortion.[19] 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.[20]
  • 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."[21]
  • 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."[22]
  • 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."[23]
  • 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.[24]
  • 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.[25]
  • 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.[26] The affair shocked the Brazilian government[26] 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.[27][28]

See also


  1. ^ ProChoice.org
  2. ^ CBC Trust
  3. ^ "State Policies in Brief, An Overview of Abortion Laws" (PDF). Guttmacher Institute. 2007-05-01. http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_OAL.pdf. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  4. ^ Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996 (Act No. 92 of 1996)
  5. ^ Christian Lawyers Association v Minister of Health and Others (Reproductive Health Alliance as amicus curiae) 2005 (1) SA 509 (T) (24 May 2004), Transvaal Provincial Division
  6. ^ "Age of Majority." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2nd Ed. Ed. Jeffrey Lehman and Shirelle Phelps. Gale Cengage, 2005. eNotes.com. 2006. 25 Sep, 2008 <http://www.enotes.com/wests-law-encyclopedia/ age-majority>
  7. ^ Heritage Foundation
  8. ^ Mahkorn, "Pregnancy and Sexual Assault," The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, eds. Mall & Watts, (Washington, D.C., University Publications of America, 1979) 55-69
  9. ^ "Age of Majority." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2nd Ed. Ed. Jeffrey Lehman and Shirelle Phelps. Gale Cengage, 2005. eNotes.com. 2006. 25 Sep, 2008 http://www.enotes.com/wests-law-encyclopedia/age-majority
  10. ^ ReligiousTolerance.org
  11. ^ Choice Matters
  12. ^ a b Pro Choice America "In Your State"
  13. ^ Detroit News: Boy faces felony in baseball bat abortion[dead link]
  14. ^ Baseball Bat Abortion Boulder Weekly
  15. ^ NARAL - Michigan
  16. ^ Pacifica Radio
  17. ^ Planned Parenthood
  18. ^ Spring Adams
  19. ^ Religious Tolerance
  20. ^ Religious Tolerance
  21. ^ CARAL Reproductive Health and right Center, "District Court Invalidates Tennessee Parental Consent for Abortions" Choice.org
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Lisa Falkenberg: "Study: Texas parental law might lower– and delay– teen abortion" Houston Chronicle, 2006-MAR-09
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ a b Ertelt, Steven (2008-03-05). "Brazil Catholic Church Excommunicates Doctors Who Did Abortion on Little Girl". Lifenews.com. http://www.lifenews.com/int1112.html. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  27. ^ Pope reiterates church ban on abortion
  28. ^ Radio Vatican

External links

In support

In opposition


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

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