Over the past several years, securing women’s right to abortion have taken big steps in many countries. Even though abortion has been practiced since ancient times, people still can’t come to an agreement whether to approve of it or not even after millennia has passed. Currently, there are 56 countries in the world that legalized, even under certain conditions, abortion. On the other hand, 37 countries require parental involvement 24-48 hours prior the abortion procedure. Is parental consent really needed, especially in the case of adolescent pregnancy? Or can the child be allowed to decide on her own?
Underage Unintended Pregnancy
Unintended pregnancy is the cause for 73 million abortions per year worldwide. That number includes minors. Approximately 13 million girls aged 19 years old and below gives birth each year. Of those 13 million, there is at least 10 million unintended pregnancies among girls aged 15-19 years old and more than half of them end up getting an abortion (World Health Organization, 2020). However, the abortion rate within this age group is fairly low compared to those who are older. The reason for this might be because how in some countries, parents need to be involved in a minor’s decision to get an abortion.
As mentioned earlier, 37 countries in the world require parental involvement. Some countries even have gestational limits which usually ranges from 10-14 weeks. In America, there are currently 37 states that require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion. Of these, 21 states ask only for parental consent, 3 of which require that both parents give consent; 6 states require parental notification and consent; 10 states require parental notification, 1 of which requires that both parents be notified. Other requirements that prove parenthood are required by other states.
Judicial Bypass Procedure
They have also provided an alternative process that gives the girls an option to not involve their parents. That option is the judicial bypass procedure. The judicial bypass procedure is seen as reasonable alternative as judges have a criteria in granting the request or not. Be that as it may, many minors are not aware of its existence or simply do not know how to get it. Sadly, some girls are denied bypass by anti-abortion or resistant judges.
These are for limited instances such as when the minor’s intelligence and emotional stability is proven or meets the criteria set by the state. 15 states may waive the requirement if there is convincing evidence that the minor is psychologically mature enough to make the decision and that the abortion is in her best interest. Requiring abortion for a minor due to a medical emergency is another exception accepted in 34 states. Likewise, in cases of sexual abuse, assault, incest, or neglect, 15 states may waive the parental involvement requirement.
On Parental Involvement in Abortion
Niger Innis, the spokesperson for Congress of Racial Equality, in an interview with Ed Gordon on News & Notes, emphasized that the requirement for parental involvement in abortion is not about making abortion inaccessible for minors but about ensuring that the minors are given proper guidance and that they are kept safe, should the operation cause complications. Having parents involved in the decision will significantly lessen the burden of the decision of the minor to have an abortion.
Moreover, this law also protects the hospitals from malpractice suits. As argued by Innis and other proponents of the law, the requirement for parental consent before a minor can have abortion is the same as requiring parental consent before any hospital can perform any treatment or operation on a minor. This requirement is ultimately to ensure the safety and well-being of the minor.
Despite these provisions and the clear positive impact of parental consent in lowering abortion rates, there are still forces in opposition. Pro-choice groups assert that the low abortion rates can only be attributed to better access to contraceptives. Another argument they present is that parental involvement only prolongs the process for the minor. There is a need to mention that unintended pregnancy rates are highest in countries that prohibits abortion regardless of social standing and lowest in countries where abortion is legal.
Regardless of their relationship with their parents, minors find it difficult to tell them about a decision that would simultaneously reveal their sexual life. The process takes time, which postpones the abortion procedure, leading to riskier later-term abortion. Furthermore, according to pro-choice groups, it puts more young women in danger as 30% of minors who don’t tell their parents about the abortion fear disappointment, violence, or being kicked out.
It is understandable why parents tend to worry and would want to get involved in their child’s decision. Most parents think that their young ones couldn’t possibly make such a life-changing decision without consulting them first. But studies have shown that adolescents are actually quite capable of making big decisions on their own. Adolescents also do talk to trusted adults, which at times includes their parents.
Pro-choice groups recognize that some not all households have a healthy relationship. In fact, approximately 80% of children today live in non-traditional, or as some may call it, dysfunctional households. 1 of 3 teens has a history of family violence that makes them not trust their parents. Requiring the involvement of parents before abortion may not be beneficial for an adolescent’s mental and physical health at all.
Abortion is an impactful procedure to undergo, one would say it’s as significant as having a pregnancy. It is important to take the time and make informed decisions about these things, which is why the parents’ involvement in the decision-making process is something that medical professionals highly encourage.
Teenagers can be impulsive and prone to making irrational decisions especially when under stress. They may feel that they don’t have any other option but to have an abortion even when they do. In cases where the minor only feels compelled to have an abortion, the parents may offer options that the minor did not consider or did not think were available. Furthermore, abortion could take a toll on the minor’s emotional and psychological well-being. In such a case, having someone to talk to who is willing to understand who will still love you unconditionally would make a great difference for the adolescent.
Minors from abusive homes need not worry about the law either, as this will ultimately not prevent them from having an abortion. As discussed earlier, the law has provisions for minors who may not be safe should their parents get involved in the abortion procedure. One only needs to be informed and follow the process, also she will be able to still undergo an abortion.
Ultimately, these concerns should not take precedent over the real reason why parental consent should be required for abortion on a minor, which is to ensure the minor’s safety. After all, abortion is a risky medical procedure that, no matter how advanced the procedures have become, will always come with certain complications. These adolescent women should not have to face an ordeal alone, especially not when they have parents to support them.
Legalizing abortion and requiring parental consent or notification has kept thousands of minors safe from life-threatening complications that comes with unsafe abortion. Ensuring parental involvement in the abortion process of a minor reduces the chances of the minor eventually regretting a permanent decision she is about to make. However, parents should first discuss it with their daughter and not be the one to make the final decision without input from their child.
Medical professionals prioritize the health and safety of their patients. Surely, parents feel the same way about their child. But even so, a child should be given the opportunity to make the choice on their own since they are capable and also know themselves and their body better than anyone. If they feel unsafe, judged, or that their health is compromised or their future will suffer severe damage if they continue on with the pregnancy, then they should be allowed to make the decision alone.
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Guttmacher Institute. (2020, July). Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion Worldwide. Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide
Guttmacher Institute. (2020, July). Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions. Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/parental-involvement-minors-abortions
World Health Organization. (2020, January 31). Adolescent pregnancy. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-pregnancy