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Thirty-four US states currently require pregnant minors either to notify their parents or get their consent before having a legal abortion. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of theses statutes provided that minors are also given an alternative mechanism for abortion approval that does not involve parents. The mechanism used is the 'judicial bypass hearing' at which minors persuade judges that they are mature and informed enough to make the abortion decision themselves. While most minors receive judicial approval, the hearings intrude into the most personal aspects of a young woman's life. The hearings, while formally civil in nature, can be punitive in tone. Parental involvement statutes are often couched in the language of family communications and protecting minors. They are politically popular because they offer politicians the chance to be pro-life, pro-choice, and pro-family all at once. This paper argues that parental involvement statutes are less concerned with developing nuanced policies to improve the quality of teenage health or decision making than with securing a set of political goals aimed at making abortion harder to get, restoring parental authority, and punishing girls for having sex.


Health Law and Policy | Law | Law and Gender | Law and Politics