Good Reasons to Oppose Parental Consent Laws

There is no limit to arguments against imposing a one-size-fits-all parental notification law on pregnant teenagers. Proponents claim it is a parents’ rights bill, but opponents believe it is an anti-choice bill. The only organizational supporters of the bill are anti-abortion groups; organizations that advocate for children’s health and welfare oppose it. Here’s why:

Targets vulnerable teens

Most minors voluntarily tell at least one parent. This bill ignores the harsh realities of many adolescents’ lives, it affects those who are afraid to tell both parents. Some teenagers do not have parents willing to talk with them about anything; and in some families sexual subjects, especially abortion are never addressed.


Parental notification laws frighten teenagers away from medical care delaying counseling and abortion until later in pregnancy.

Back-alley abortions

To avoid confrontation, some minors will seek an abortion outside the health care system. The parents of the late Becky Bell lobby passionately against such laws, citing the Indiana law that drove their daughter to undergo a non-medical abortion. Becky died a long, painful death from the sort of septic abortion that killed and maimed many women prior to 1970.

Coercion toward teen motherhood

Some parents will prevent their daughters from keeping the abortion appointment, forcing them to bear the child. This is the goal of the bill.

The aspirin in school argument

Proponents claim that teens need parental permission to get an aspirin in school but this is a school rule, not a state law. In fact, New York specifically permits minors to consent to their own treatment for prenatal care and delivery, mental health care, STD and HIV tests or treatment, alcoholism and drug abuse, and family planning. Only abortion is singled out for parental notification.

Beatings at home

Parental involvement laws open minors to the risk of beatings at home. In June, after learning that his teenage daughter had been raped, a Bridgeport father beat her with a belt so severely that he was arrested and charged with third degree assault. In some cases, beatings are guaranteed when parents receive a certified letter telling them that their daughter is pregnant and intends to have an abortion. Abusive parents handle sex, pregnancy, and abortion especially badly.

A trip to Family Court

The bill provides a legal “out” for the pregnant teen who wants to avoid confronting her parents: a trip to Family Court for a judge’s permission for the abortion. But even the NYS Association of Family Court Judges opposes this bill because judges can’t assess the maturity of young women they have never before seen, Family Court is difficult to maneuver, girls would not be represented by law guardians, and confidentiality may be lost. And some Family Court judges were elected on the Right to Life Party line and would never okay an abortion. Family Courts are already clogged with compelling cases of child abuse that are required by law to receive immediate attention.

Criminal penalties for doctors

Violation of this law by physicians would be a crime. Yet, ironically, the doctors are perfectly free to perform the abortion against the parents’ will—as long as they’ve notified the parents (by certified mail 48 hours before) of their intention to do so.