Minors and Judicial BypassEveryone agrees that loving parents should be involved when a young woman faces an unintended pregnancy. And every parent hopes that any young person confronting a crisis like that will seek the advice and counsel of those who care for her most and know her best. However, current Massachusetts law requires a pregnant woman under 18 to obtain parental consent or a court order (judicial bypass) for an abortion.
Most young women do turn to their parents when considering an abortion – but for those who do not or cannot, court involvement is not necessarily a better alternative. In practice, Massachusetts’ parental consent law is a complicated, burdensome mandate that fails to protect young women and can, in fact, pose added risks to their health and well-being.
The nation’s leading medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose parental consent laws because they impose barriers to care that can actually harm the young women they are meant to protect. This kind of mandate can increase the threat of violence in the home and expose a young woman to the health risks associated with delayed medical care and unwanted childbirth. They may also cause her to leave the state for the health services she needs or take more drastic measures, such as attempting self-induced abortion or suicide.
Young women need more responsible adults available to them in times of need, not a state mandate that cuts off their options. Legislators should revamp the current mandate that restricts counseling options in order to better support young women for whom abortion may be the most appropriate option.
Improving Abortion Access for Minors
An Act to Improve Healthcare for Young Women would adjust the age of consent for abortion to align it with other state statutes that give young people aged 16 and older the right to consent to sensitive medical decisions and make other important life choices. The Act would also allow other responsible family members – such as grandparents or much-older adult siblings – to provide legal consent. In order to increase a young woman’s opportunities to get the kind of guidance she needs when facing an unintended pregnancy, An Act to Improve Healthcare for Young Women would provides young women the option to seek counseling from trained medical professionals in lieu of a court order.
To learn more, email Christian Miron, Deputy Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.