Parental Notification Doesn’t Protect Women

Jessica Acee • Nov 09, 2009

Parental notification laws set up unnecessary roadblocks for young women seeking an abortion.

Thirty-five states have some form of the law mandating that doctors notify a legal guardian 48 hours in advance of the abortion, or that the parents give actual written consent.

Illinois is the latest to grapple with the legality of these laws. On November 4, the state’s medical board approved the Parental Notification Act. Just hours later a state judge granted a restraining order requested by the ACLU.

A Chicago physician and a Granite City women’s medical clinic had challenged the law with the ACLU’s help. They argued persuasively that the law is unconstitutional and would harm minors by preventing them from obtaining safe abortions or by forcing them to carry their pregnancies to term.

The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that some young women will go to extreme and unhealthy lengths to keep pregnancies secret, including running away, obtaining illegal abortions or self-inducing abortions.

Because each of the 35 states has it’s own version of a notification law, there is a mess of legislation for young women to decipher. The Supreme Court ought to ban these laws for interfering in a woman’s right to privacy, but they have consistently upheld parental notification and consent laws.

Most young women will look to their parents for guidance and emotional support in deciding whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

But the government cannot mandate healthy family dynamics and positive communication skills. And the young women who aren’t lucky enough to have a compassionate family need to be trusted to manage their own reproductive care in consultation with their doctors.

Promoters of consent and notification laws argue that young women can always file for a judicial bypass where a judge will consider allowing the minor to have an abortion without parental notification.

This might be a reasonable solution except that many women may not even know the option exists. And fewer still can afford to hire a lawyer.

Abortion is legal in America. These state laws are attempts to subvert Roe v. Wade. In the guise of protecting young women, they can actually make their lives more miserable and dangerous. It’s time to put a stop to these paternalistic laws.

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