When Teens Don’t Tell their Parents about Abortion

Across the U.S., 35 states have laws requiring parental consent or notification for minors seeking an abortion. Still, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 40% of minors having an abortion report that neither of their parents knew about it.

Teen pregnancy, and likewise teen abortion, has been falling over the past decade. In 2008, 750,000 women under 20 became pregnant in the U.S. Among women 15-19, the pregnancy rate was 67.8 per 1,000 women, which is the lowest since 1972. Comparatively, the overall pregnancy rate of women age 15-44 was 105.5. The teen abortion rate is also the lowest since 1972, at 17.8.

Of all abortions, 6% were obtained by teenagers 15-17. While girls under 15 only had 0.4% of all abortions, their ratio of abortions to live births was the highest, at 821 abortions for every 1,000 live births.

A 2011 Gallup poll found that 71% of Americans support a law requiring parental consent for an abortion. Still, some think that minors should have every right to have an abortion without their parent’s knowledge. There have been high profile instances, for example Desperate Housewives star Vanessa Williams, of people coming out years later to admit having a secret abortion as a teenager. In Georgia, there is a carve-out of the law to allow for teenagers, who usually need to notify their parents, to obtain court waivers in order to obtain an abortion without parental knowledge. The U.S. Supreme Court has generally held that such waivers need to exist in order for parental involvement laws to be constitutional. Minors seeking such waivers in Georgia need to show the court that either they are “mature minors,” meaning that they are well informed enough to make the decision, or that telling the parents would not be in the child’s best interest.

Even when the child resides in a State with consent or notification laws, sometimes the child will cross State lines in order to keep an abortion a secret. There is currently no Federal law preventing this practice, but one is currently under consideration: The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA).

In regard to the CIANA, Michael New, Ph.D., testified before Congress that, “every peer-reviewed study I have seen, 16 in total, finds that State parental involvement laws reduce the in-State abortion rates for minors.” These reductions ranged from 13 to 42%. He also noted that two studies found that “the in-State decline in the abortion rate consistently exceeds any out-of-State increase.” He also notes, “A 2003 study in the Journal of Health Economics found that parental involvement laws are reducing teen pregnancy anywhere from 4-9%.”

Additional Resources

Abort 73.com U.S. Abortion Statistics: http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/

The Guttmacher Institute Facts on Induced Abortion in the U.S.: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

Reuters Teen Pregnancy, Abortion Rates at Record Low: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/08/us-teen-pregnancy-idUSTRE8171J020120208

Minors’ Access to Reproductive Health Care in Georgia: http://www.gachd.org/Minor’s%20Rights%20to%20Confidential.pdf

CDC Estimated Pregnancy Rates and Rates of Pregnancy Outcomes for the U.S.: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_07.pdf

Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act Hearing: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/printers/112th/112-87_73214.PDF


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