There are so many barriers to women in the U.S. procuring safe abortions: Cost, ability to travel to a clinic, language, and pressure from friends and family, to name a few. One barrier that doesn’t get talked about as often is age—perhaps because it’s less socially acceptable for women under the age of 18 to get pregnant. But minors do get pregnant, and some minors want abortions. What about them?
In fact, 37 states in the U.S. require some form of parental involvement in order for a minor to legally terminate a pregnancy. Many advocates argue that these laws put those who need the most help at a disadvantage: Survivors of rape and incest, for example. Notably, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Obstetricians have all publicly denounced parental consent laws.
In these 37 states, there is an alternative option to parental consent called judicial bypass. Judicial bypass comes with it’s own challenges, though. For one, most successful judicial bypasses are facilitated by a lawyer. Pro Bono attorneys and organizations do exist for youth who (understandably) cannot afford to hire an attorney, and in some cases, a county government lawyer is assigned. Once a minor meets with a lawyer, they will facilitate the process, which includes obtaining an ultrasound, submitting paperwork, and presenting a case to a judge.
Clearly, our judicial system is not designed to protect the bodily autonomy of young women. Although that’s a daunting reality, there are many capable organizations out there that exist to protect vulnerable women.
If you or a minor you know wants an abortion, call your nearest abortion provider as soon as possible. Medical professionals from your provider can explain local laws pertaining to youth abortions, lay out your options, and refer you to an attorney if necessary.