National Partnership for Women & Families

Bypassing Justice: Pregnant Minors and Parental Involvement Laws

Young women's access to abortion is a sensitive and controversial issue.

The large majority of minors who want an abortion consult their parents. But some young women need to proceed alone — either because they believe they should not tell their parents or their parents refuse to be involved.

Those adolescents rely on a small group of professionals — such as clinic counselors or intake staff, women’s rights advocates, judges who hear petitions and lawyers who represent minors — to navigate these laws and the bypass hearing (where a minor may ask a judge to waive state parental notice or consent requirements).

About the Project

Between August 2008 and June 2010, the National Partnership examined young women's access to abortion in the 36 states where, at that time, they were required to involve parents or (in 34 states) secure a judge's permission to decide for themselves.

We interviewed 155 clinical and legal professionals and convened three meetings — two addressing important, discrete issues on the bypass, and the third a national meeting that drew experts from across the country. In addition, we called courthouses staff across three states to gauge the level of knowledge about the bypass (and access to it) outside of urban areas.

Our research is summarized into current state law, legal and clinical professionals’ reflections on existing barriers, and additional resources that may be helpful to others interested in this issue. The final report was distributed to members of the national and state reproductive health community.

Map: Bypassing Justice: Pregnant Minors and Parental Involvement Laws

The Law on the Books

Thirty-nine states currently have consent laws (requiring the parent to give permission for an abortion) or notice laws (requiring physicians to notify the parent that the minor is seeking an abortion). Only five states and the District of Columbia have no law; five states' laws are enjoined or unenforced at this time. More

Additional Resources

We've identified a few helpful articles, essays, books, reports, and studies if you are interested in learning more about parental involvement laws. More

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