What’s the deal with parental involvement laws?
If you’re anything like me you probably put off things you don’t want to do for a long time. Especially those things that I really don’t want to do, like my math homework. I doubt that there was one day this year that I actually had my math homework done at home, I always ended up doing that morning before school or even right before class started. This type of procrastination gets even worse when it comes to things that I know I could get in trouble for. There was this teacher I had a few years ago and anytime you didn’t do well on one of her tests she would require that you have your parents sign the test within a week, to show that they saw your grade, and if you didn’t have them sign it she would call them just to make sure that they knew what grade you got. If that ever happened to me, I would always put off showing it to my parents for as long as possible so I would usually show it to them on the 6th day. Even though I knew their reaction wouldn’t be any different about it between the day I got it back and a week later, I still would put it off because I didn’t want to show them. This seems to be a pretty normal and harmless behavior for most teens, but what if I was putting off something more important than a test grade?
What if I needed to tell my parents I was having an abortion? Well I wouldn’t (I’m a cisgender male) but this is a reality for teens around the globe. States all over America, and countries around the world, are enacting what’s called “Parental Involvement Laws.” These laws are split into two categories, parental notification and parental consent. Parental notification laws require that one or both parents are notified that their teen is having an abortion, usually a day or two before a doctor terminates the pregnancy. Parental consent laws on the other hand, force the minor to get written consent from their parents allowing them to have an abortion.
The goal of these laws are to get parents more involved in the decision making process. The majority of teens actually do end up telling at least one of their parents without the law telling them too though, including 90% of teens under the age of 15, and those that don’t have a good reason for it. Over 20% of teens who choose not to tell their parents do so because they fear being kicked out of the house and almost 10% have been abused in the past and fear that they will be beaten if their parents found out.
These laws are not only unnecessary, but they are also dangerous. In years after parental involvement laws have been passed, second trimester abortions have risen in the affected area upwards of 20%. As a result of these laws, teens are waiting longer to get the procedure because they “put off” talking to a parent; similar how we teens put off things like homework. The later an abortion is performed, the more dangerous it becomes.
In most cases, parental involvement laws have something included called judicial bypass. This means that a minor can go to a judge to ask for an abortion, if they don’t feel that they can tell their parents for fear of abuse or other retaliation. This process is long and complicated, and prolongs the time before the minor can terminate her pregnancy. Another issue with judicial bypass is the possible lack of privacy. Though technically everyone involved in the process is supposed to keep the minor’s identity confidential, this doesn’t always happen. I recently talked to one woman who lives in a small town in the Midwest who said that the courthouse has copies of the local high school’s year book in the lobby. This way if a teen come into court to get a judicial bypass, a bystander can look up who she is in the yearbooks.
This coming election year, in the United States and other countries around the world, parental involvement laws will be on the ballot. When you go to the polls, please remember that these laws do nothing more than hurt teens in a time of need. With your help we can make basic reproductive rights available to every person in the world.