Can you get an abortion without telling your parents?
In 1973, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade,* a landmark decision in privacy rights. He wrote that the Fourteenth Amendment′s protection of liberty is broad enough to include a woman′s decision regarding her pregnancy: “[T]he right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision . . . but . . . this right is not unqualified.”
The court balanced your right to privacy against the state′s interest in protecting a viable fetus—a fetus that could survive outside of its mother before natural birth. Consequently, during the first trimester of pregnancy (approximately twelve weeks after conception) you may obtain an abortion. During the second trimester, states may impose restrictions regarding the life and health of the mother; during the final trimester, states may prohibit abortion altogether.
In a later case, Bellotti v. Baird (1976)**, these abortion rights were extended to teen mothers. Whether you′re single, married, separated, or divorced— regardless of your age—you may get an abortion.
The issue of parental consent has also been raised and decided. A state may require either a parent or a court to consent to a minor′s abortion. In requiring a parent′s consent or notification, the law must also include what is called a judicial bypass procedure.
If a parent refuses to give consent, or if notifying the parent would endanger the minor, the parent may be bypassed and consent obtained from a court. In other words, neither your parents nor the father of the child has absolute veto power over your decision. Nor can your parents force you to have an abortion. Your privacy rights allow you to make the final decision.
Under the appropriate circumstances, you may petition the court directly for its consent. The judge will meet with you and possibly your lawyer (if one has been assigned to represent you) to discuss the situation.You may also have a counselor with you. It′s the court′s job to make sure you understand the decision to abort, and that you have received counseling regarding the alternatives to abortion. Even if the judge finds that you lack the maturity to make an intelligent decision, consent may still be given based on what′s in your best interests.
Before making a decision, take time to learn about your options. Talk with someone you trust. If you decide against abortion, contact a local family planning agency to get information about foster care and adoption.You have the right to keep your child, sometimes with the help of the state (depending on your age), just as you have the right to place your child for adoption. Consider all of your options before deciding what to do.
Update: For the second year in a row, the national teen birth rate dropped in 2009. According to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics in December, 2010, the rate is the lowest since 1940 when tracking began. 39 of 1,000 teenagers between ages 15 and 19 became pregnant in 2009. See here for a 2013 report on the decline of teen birth rates.
Update 2022: On June 24, 2022 the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Roe v. Wade stating that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to obtain an abortion. The 6-3 decision held that the authority to regulate abortions is left to the states and elected representatives. Protests across the country erupted due in part to the majority position in favor of free choice in this personal matter. It is now up to individual states to recognize a right to abortion or ban the practice entirely.
*Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
**Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U.S. 622 (1979).
Abortion: Opposing Viewpoints Series edited by Tamara Roleff
(Greenhaven Press, 2005). Multiple authors discuss the controversies
surrounding abortion and public policy. Covers Roe v. Wade, stem-cell
research, ethics, and legislation.
Planned Parenthood Locator Service
Call this number to reach the Planned Parenthood office nearest you. They offer counseling on birth control, abortion, alternative placement options (foster care and adoption), and more. The service is free and confidential; parental consent isn′t required. A translator service is also provided.