In the case of American Academy of Pediatrics v. Lungren, a legal dispute ensued in California’s Supreme Court in 1997, opposing the validity of the state’s law forcing women under the age of eighteen to seek parental permission or judicial approval before performing an abortion (Musser 285). The legislation was first passed by the California Legislature in 1987 by Assembly Bill number 2274 of the 1987 to 1988 legislative session. It was then encrypted in California Health and Safety Code section 25958. (Musser 285). The law, however, did not go into action due to procedural challenges and judicial injunctions. The first hearing by the Supreme Court of California challenging the bill as presented by the American Pediatrics was held in March 1997, and at the time, the court found it to be constitutional (Musser 285). Soon after that, the Court voted for a rehearing case. In August after the trial, the Court found the parental consent law to be unconstitutional under the California’s Constitution privacy clause. Based on this code, minors in California managed to obtain abortions without parental permission or notification. Juveniles can receive abortion services at the same level as adults. The legitimacy of the consent is not a uniform phenomenon across all the state in the United States. In other states, a minor is required by law to obtain parental consent before going for an abortion. An indictment by the Supreme Court of the United States allowed judges to excuse minors from obtaining parental permission while seeking for abortions, a process referred to as judicial bypass (Musser 286).
The variance in legitimacy across states of the United States about the parental consent presents the varied view people give to this topic thus raising the question; should minors consent to the determination of their pregnancies as provided for by the California minor consent and confidentiality laws?
This study provides a classical argument that analyses the pros and cons of the consent and confidentiality laws as provided for by the State of California allowing minors to determine their pregnancies without permission from parents.
Proposition 73 provided for an amendment to the Constitution of California requiring, with specified exceptions, a qualified physician (or their representatives) to pass a notification to the parents or the legal guardians of the expectant minor at least 48 hours before performing an abortion-related to that minor (Musser 285). However, this provision did not in any way require the doctor or the minor to obtain the permission of the parent or the juvenile. The physician was required to send a notification to the legit guardian or parent through personal writing, and mail notification. The provision also protects the minor from any form of sexual, physical, and emotional maltreatment by the parent or the guardian.
A close study of the Assembly Bill 2274 by the American Pediatrics revealed that a majority of it represented a substantial violation of a minor woman’s privacy (Musser 287). The Supreme Court of California anchored its opinion mainly on the findings and information forwarded by experts during the hearing stage, who testified that permission from parents as per the requirements of the consent statute does not serve to perfect and advance the health or best interests of expectant minors. Those in favor of the bill opined that juveniles required the care, support, and the advice of their parents or legal guardians, and that inacceptable and irrational to permit a minor woman to consent to abortions without their parents’ consensus, remarkably given the option of the judicial bypass. California State Senators proposed the Senate Constitutional Amendments (SCA) 17 that sought to revive the intent of the Assembly Bill 2274 by stripping of the minors the immunity they had from the privacy law (Musser 285). California Nurses Association opposed this move and announced its protest against SCA 17 publicly.
The American Pediatrics majority view was a representation of the articulation of the compelling group of scholars who suggested that parental consent statutes do not in any way protect the interests of the young minor women population. The driving force behind the formulation of the parental approval statutes was as a result of the highly increasing population of underage women who were getting pregnant each year, with a significant portion of them considering to have, or had abortions. For instance, statistics from the State of Ohio indicate that about 2,500 minor women aborted in 1995 (Musser 288). In California, it is estimated that nearly 30,000 teenage women under the age of 18 have abortions every year (Musser 288). Various experts have essentially been unanimous in their agreements that young minor women who opt to determine their pregnancies should be given absolute support while deciding about the matter (Musser 288). For a majority of them, it is most preferable that this support comes from their family member, and more so their parents. Medical practitioners are encouraged to hold extensive discussions with the young about their family situations and motivate them, whenever possible, to disclose it to their parents or legit parents. Encouraging the expectant minor women to seek parental or guardian approval voluntarily is beneficial, but the use of legal coercion is not (Musser 288). Despite it being helpful to confide in a parent or a guardian, many young women finds it unsafe to do so.
Minor women initially begin by evaluating the possibility of disclosing their intentions to their family members, and if they feel they have the ability to, they will usually elect to do so. Results from Alan Guttmacher Institute revealed that about 60% of young women seeking to have abortions would seek parental participation in the United States (Musser 288). This suggests that enacting parental consent regulations will have limited effectiveness in achieving the desired output. Teenage ladies who feel safe to disclose to their parents incline to do so, and legal necessity to acquire permission from parents have no significant benefits for those who do not feel safe to confide. Nevertheless, those feel unsafe do so because a majority think that their parents are likely to do arm-twisting. It is reported that 18% of adolescent women who did not voluntarily tell their parents, but who parents found out about their pregnancy, said coercion to have an abortion (Musser 288). The statistics further disclose a troubling finding that about 12% of young ladies believe that they would suffer physical assault or get thrown out of their homes if forced to inform their parents (Musser 288). This makes legislation a bad idea especially for those women who are not able to disclose their pregnancy for fear of their parents
Advocates for the parental consent statutes are usually reluctant to provide any social programs for teenage women who get pregnant or who are engaging or planning to engage in sexual intercourse. The Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) offers grants for care provisions and programs pursuing to encourage abstinence from sex (Musser 288). Conversely, it is hesitant to provide funding for educational initiatives and or for birth control. It also provides no support to programs that advocate, encourage, and uphold abortions. It sidelines programs that seek enhance access to or provide information about abortions, like planned parenthood, leaving them without funds and fighting for resources (Musser 288). This does not only deny teenage women access to legit, safe abortions, but also harshly limits support concerning inhibition of unintended pregnancies, parental care, parental skills, opportunities for adoption.
Terrifyingly, young teenage women who find it difficult to disclose their desires to their parents, and also who are too daunted or who are time-pushed to utilize the option of judicial bypass, may tend to go for illegal abortion or attempt conducting self-induced abortions (Musser 288). This may lead to devastating health problems such as infections that may lead to death. For Instance, a young woman by the name Becky Bell, who hails from the State of Indiana that has a parental consent statute found it challenging to open up to her parents for fear of disappointing them (Musser 288). She decides to go for an illegal abortion plan by attempting to self-abort. She lost her life from the resultant infection. Her death leads her mother to strongly speak against the consent laws that she blames for the death of her daughter.
Enacting permission laws may force young ladies who are faced with perhaps dangerous options of revelation to parents or judges, seek to other states to obtain abortions. For example, when the State of Massachusetts passed its statute requiring parental decree, up to a third of minors traveled to other states for abortions (Henshaw and Kost 5). This movement also raises the issue of the socioeconomic status of teenagers as those who come from higher-income families are the ones who are likely to travel to other states for abortion. Consent regulations thus propagate unequal treatment of teens by the socioeconomic rank. This movement may also elevate other problems. For instance, in Pennsylvania, a woman decided to drive her son’s minor girlfriend to another for an abortion and ended up in court for custody rights violations of the lady’s mother (Henshaw and Kost 5).
The consent process is tedious and time-consuming. For a young woman to navigate through the system to successfully obtain authorization, time is substantially consumed. Delays in receiving abortion may further raise the risk of complications. Studies done on pregnant teenage women found out that after the eighth week since conception, every week of delay increases the mortality rate for abortion by 50% (Henshaw and Kost 10).
On the other hand, those in favor of the consent regulations argue that the presence of the laws encourage young women to think adequately before engaging in sexual activities. Right to Life lobbyists have often expressed their delight when such laws are passed as they believe that they will efficiently lower the ballooning number of teenage girls’ pregnancy rates (Erdmans and Black). They argue that teens will stop sexual activities if they are aware of the unavailability of abortion services. It is believed that the laws are likely to send a message of abstinence to young people despite the fact that this idea lacks empirical evidence (Erdmans and Black).
Supporters of parental consent laws argue that the decision making the process for an abortion by a teenage lady may have psychological and emotional miseries. It is considered to be a hard procedure for any woman to make, leave alone a teenager (Hornby). Irrespective of the fact that teenagers are physically capable of having a baby, they are likely to go by their immediate emotional responses as a result of their stage of psychological development. Irrational decisions may lead to long-term harmful effects (Hornby). This is an indication that minors are not capable of making reasonable decisions on their own.
Women who have aborted are at a higher risk of suffering from psychological and social challenges such as drug and substance abuse, which in return increase sexual activities, and depression. These problems may pose a threat to life or come along with long-term or permanent consequences. Parents may be required to monitor and guide their children through the physically and emotionally process of abortion. Minors may need a second take on the best option to consider for their lives. For instance, it may be challenging for them to decide on whether it is healthy to keep a child or to abort (Rodman 155). To be in a position to land at the best decision, it may be essential to consider the inputs of their parents. Young people are usually terrified by the idea of talking about sex and pregnancy with their parents. Consent laws encourage these nature of talks thus teenagers may be in a position to make informed decisions (Rodman 155).
Proponents of parental consent regulations argue that the permission for an abortion is necessary because of the resultant negative medical issues. There are some medical conditions that a teenager can suffer from as a result of abortion. Some of them include the possibility of infertility, possible miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy, and premature birth of children in the future (Rodman 155). These are severe medical conditions that a young woman requires to think about before considering the option of abortion. Studies show that the rate of suicide by an adolescent after an abortion is significantly higher than after childbirth. Also, many adolescent women are likely not to get a proper education of follow-up after abortion (Hornby 6).
Proponents of involvement of parents in abortion exercises involving their kinds feel that the laws lower the rates of abortion (Hornby 7). This argument remains controversial despite the presence of some data supporting it. Some states have issued data suggesting the reduction in teen abortion rates with the consent regulations whereas states without such laws have experienced an increase. For example, a study done in the State of Texas showed that its requirement for the notification of the parent through the notification law saw a decline in the rates of abortion amongst teenagers aged between 15 and 17 years without any form of cross-border travel to obtain the service (Henshaw and Kost 50).
Involvement of parents is one of the laws that can guarantee young teenage girls safety from predatory behavior of some men. It has been substantiated that multifold of teen pregnancies are a product of statutory rape (Henshaw and Kost 55). In a probe involving about 46,000 pregnancies of school girls in California, over 33,000 or 71% were as result of post-high-school men who were on average five years older than the girls (Henshaw and Kost 57). The most shocking revelation stated that men who were 25 years and older fathered more school going girls than boys below the age of 18 (Henshaw and Kost 57).
Elliott, Laine. Teen pregnancy: the ongoing controversy on abortion. 2007.
Erdmans, Mary Patrice, and Timothy Black. On becoming a teen mom: life before pregnancy. University of California Press, 2015.
Henshaw, Stanley K., and Kathryn Kost. “Parental Involvement in Minors Abortion Decisions, 1990-91.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, pp. 1–100.
Hornby, Garry. “Importance of Parental Involvement.” Parental Involvement in Childhood Education, 2011, pp. 1–9.
Musser, Elizabeth L. “Mandating Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions.” Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, vol. 13, no. 1, Sept. 2013, pp. 282–292.
Rodman, Hyman. “Should Parental Involvement Be Required for Minors Abortions?” Family Relations, vol. 40, no. 2, 1991, p. 155.