Only a handful of states grant minors access to abortion without their parents’ knowledge or permission. The majority of state laws mandate that one or both parents be notified or give their consent prior to the procedure.
Most teenagers who intend to have an abortion voluntarily inform their parents. Studies have shown that when girls make up their minds not to tell, they often do so out of self-protection. On average, one in three come from families with histories of violence. The young women fear that telling the truth may get them thrown out of the house or bring them physical harm.
An adolescent living in one of the states that legislate parental involvement would have one of two choices. She could travel to a state with less stringent laws or she could file a petition requesting a judge’s approval, called a judicial bypass. Both are tall orders for any teenager, much less one who is probably anxious and scared. Her pediatrician should be able to advise her on how to go about petitioning the court. Few young women are turned down. But the legal route is time consuming.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the court proceedings routinely delay a girl’s abortion by more than one week and sometimes by as much as three weeks. The result is a riskier and more expensive procedure. After the state of Minnesota enacted a parental-notification law, the proportion of second trimester abortions among adolescents rose 18 percent.