Background of Abortion of Minors
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough women aged nineteen and younger account for a relatively small share (less than 20 percent) of the approximately 1.2 million abortions performed every year in the United States, their legal status as minors has made them a focal point in reproductive policy debates. As of 2008, thirty-six states have adopted laws requiring minors to obtain consent from, or to notify one or both parents prior to an abortion, but in nine of those states, the laws are not enforced. Most of these state laws also contain the so-called judicial bypass option, by which a young woman can petition a judge, bypassing her parents, for permission to consent to an abortion.
Advocates argue that notification laws enhance family communication and promote the health and best interests of minors. They say that most teenage girls are unprepared to deal with the physical and psychological effects of abortion. They also argue that parents’ responsibilities to oversee their children’s health outweigh teens’ right to privacy. Moreover, many advocates believe that notification and consent requirements have reduced the numbers of teen abortions, as well as teen pregnancies. Confidential access to abortion services, advocates claim, makes teens more likely to engage in sexual activities.
Opponents of notification laws counter that there is little clinical evidence that parental notification decreases the likelihood of adolescent sexual behavior. Many believe that notification and consent requirements have produced an increase in the number of teens delaying abortions until the later stages of pregnancy. These delays occur, they claim, because teens are paralyzed by fear of parental reaction, or because teens deliberately wait until their eighteenth birthdays, which mark the age of consent for an abortion, according to most state laws.
Opponents also point out that more than half of pregnant teens voluntarily involve their parents in the decision to choose, or not choose an abortion. They contend, however, that notification laws ignore the reality that some minors, including those pregnant as a result of rape, or incest, girls trapped in abusive homes, or struggling to survive as runaways are unwilling or unable to communicate with their parents for compelling reasons. And girls who are too intimidated to approach their own parents, critics argue, are highly unlikely to have the resources to petition a judge. These same girls, they suggest, are also more likely to place their lives and health at risk by attempting self-induced abortions.
What is Teen Abortion
What is Age of Consent:
The age at which, according to the law, persons are bound by their words and acts. State laws can vary in dictating the ages at which a person acquires the legal capacity to consent, for example, to get married, choose a guardian, conclude a contract, or undergo an abortion.
What is Judicial Bypass:
An alternative means of obtaining permission to consent to an abortion for a minor living in a state requiring parental notification or consent; a minor can petition a judge to demonstrate that either she is mature and informed enough to make her own abortion decision, or that the abortion would be in her best interest.
What is Minor:
A person who has not attained the age fixed for entering in to a legal contract or for making him, or herself, legally liable for his or her own actions.
What is Parental Notification Law:
The legal requirement that one or more parents of a pregnant minor be notified before the minor may have an abortion.
What is Parental Consent Law:
A law requiring, before an abortion is performed on a minor, the consent of one or both parents of that minor, or proceedings in a state court waiving such a requirement.
What is Self-Induced Abortion:
An abortion that a pregnant woman causes herself to undergo without licensed medical supervision
History of Teen Abortion
In the 1979 case of Bellotti v. Baird, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a challenge to Massachusetts state law, that minors must be afforded the opportunity to approach a court for authorization to have an abortion without first seeking the consent of their parents. The Court also ruled that such alternative proceedings must be carried out in a confidential and timely manner.
In the 1990 case of Hodgson v. Minnesota, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a Minnesota state law requiring a minor to notify not one, but both biological parents before having an abortion. The law made no exception for parents who are divorced, not married to each other, or unknown to their daughters.
In 1992, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Meanwhile, the Court affirmed states’ rights to enact restrictions, such as parental consent or notification laws for minors, as long as these restrictions do not create an “undue burden”. To prevent undue burden, the Court’s ruling specifically stipulated that state laws requiring parental involvement must provide minors with the alternative of seeking a court order to authorize an abortion.
In 1998, and again in 1999, the House of Representatives passed the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA). The bill would make it a federal crime to transport a minor across state lines to obtain abortion services without fulfilling the parental consent, or notice requirements of her home state. Under a threat of veto from then-President Bill Clinton, the Senate never took up the measure. The bill was reintroduced in 2003, but again failed to advance through both chambers of Congress.
In 2005, the House of Representatives passed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA). The Senate refused to consider CIANA and instead passed, in 2006, the Child Custody Protection Act, which makes it a federal crime to transport a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion with the intent of circumventing the parental involvement law of the girl’s home state. The prohibition does not apply when the abortion is necessary to save the minor’s life. The measure prevents the abridgement of the right of a parent secured under state law
But in 2007, the CIANA was reintroduced into the House. The new measure dropped the exception for physical health, but retained amendments added to the CCPA by the Senate in 2006, that a parent who commits incest with the minor may not bring a civil action under the bill; and a person who commits incest with a minor and transports the minor across a state line to obtain an abortion shall be fined or imprisoned. In July 2008, the minority on the Judiciary Committee held a form on CIANA, but no results of that forum have been announced.
Laws for Pregnant Minors
In the 2006 case of Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Supreme Court struck down a New Hampshire law that required doctors to delay a teenager’s abortion until 48 hours after parental notification. Because the law lacked a medical emergency exception, the court ruled that the law must be blocked in those cases where a lack of prompt action could jeopardize a pregnant teen’s health.
At the federal level, the Teen Endangerment Act, which combines the provisions of CIANA and CCPA, was passed by the US Congress in September 2006. If signed into law by President Bush, the Teen Endangerment Act would make it a crime for any person other than a parent to knowingly transport a girl under the age of eighteen years across a state line to obtain an abortion if she has not met the requirements for parental consent or parental notification in her state of residence. In addition, the act would impose a federal parental notification and mandatory delay law when a young woman seeks an abortion outside her state of residence.
Public opinion polls consistently show that people support the right of parents to be involved in their minor children’s decisions to undergo abortions. Congress has recently considered the issue, also in relation to federal policies, especially in regard to minor children receiving FDA-approved birth control drugs or devices – which also have abortifacient effects – at family planning clinics funded under Title X of the Public Health Service Act.
In March 2011, the Ohio House of Representatives heard “testimony” from two fetuses as part of their consideration of the so-called “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions of pregnancies in which a heartbeat can be heard. Legislators heard the amplified heartbeat of two fetuses.
Read Also: Threatened Abortion
Haussman, Melissa. Abortion Politics in North America. Boulder: Rienner, 2005. Print.
Baird, Abigail A., Christy L. Barrow, and Molly K. Richard. “Juvenile Neurolaw: When It’s Good It Is Very Good Indeed, and When It’s Bad It’s Horrid.” Journal of Health Care Law and Policy 15.1 (2012): 15–35. Print.
Chevrette, Marianne, and Haim Arie Abenhaim. “Do State-Based Policies Have an Impact on Teen Birth Rates and Teen Abortion Rates in the United States?” Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology 28.5 (2015): 354–61. Print.
Lindsey, Samuel C., Alexandra E. Sigillo, and Monica K. Miller. “Attitudes toward Parental Involvement Clause in Minor Abortion Laws and Individual Differences in Religion, Political Affiliation, and Attribution Style among College Students.” Individual Differences Research 11.2 (2013): 59–69. Print.