Parental Notification and Consent Laws

Yesterday, New Hampshire repealed their law which required minors to notify their parents that they were getting an abortion (the 2003 law was never enforced, due to a law suit by Planned Parenthood stating that it did not make provisions for the health and safety of the minor). Parental notification means that one or both parents must be informed of a minor’s abortion before it can take place. Repealing this law, and others like it, is critical to maintaining the rights of our teenagers. Here are some clear positions on adolescent abortions that I hold to be self-evident:

  1. Delaying sexual intercourse is often in the psychological best-interest of young people.
  2. Nevertheless, teenagers must learn how to effectively and consistently use contraceptives, and they must follow-through on that knowledge when they make the choice to have sexual intercourse.
  3. Abortion is absolutely the last choice, when everything else has failed.
  4. It is best for all parties involved for teenagers to make the choice to have an abortion with a parent or other trusted adult.
  5. There are some parents who would not respond reasonably or appropriately to knowledge about their teenager daughter’s (a) sexual activity and (b) pregnant status.
  6. These young girls must, in some cases, be protected from their parents.
  7. Without legal access to abortions, some adolescent girls will seek out illegal abortions or try and perform one themselves.

This last point must be avoided at all costs. Parental notification laws leave girls who most need society’s help and support out in the cold. It is absolutely legitimate for abortion providers to encourage and support teenage girls in open conversation with their parents or another trusted adult.

The next step beyond parental NOTIFICATION laws are parental CONSENT laws. Parental consent laws are so outside the bounds of reasonableness that they should not even be discussed in polite company. To allow a parent to make the choice that their daughter must take a pregnancy to term is so vastly inappropriate I am almost unable to address the issue coherently. In Texas, we have a parental consent law. The closest place without such a parental notification or consent law is New Mexico. (Find out more about the state of abortion in your state.)

The thing is, I was born in 1979. I grew up in a post Roe vs. Wade world. I have always known, without a question of a doubt, that I and I alone control my reproductive system. Parental notification and consent laws undercut this most basic truth I have grown up taking for granted. Women of all ages have the sacred right and responsibility to give birth to and raise children only according to their means and ability at a given time.

So bravo, New Hampshire, for returning reproductive control squarely where it belongs: in the hands of individual women, regardless of their age.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I don’t have the same visceral reaction to parental consent or notification laws that you do. I agree that the laws are misguided, but I believe that at least some of the supporters are well intentioned.

    It gets to the nub of what it means to be a teenager and what are the parental roles and responsibilities of their parents. Young teenagers are not adults. Neither are they children.

    I see laws like this as mostly an effort to legislate parental involvement in a teenager’s life. Good goal, but not the right approach

  2. It seems to me like people who are in favor of parental consent laws are thinking in terms of their families, not families where daughters need to be protected from their parents.

  3. It is, of course, ideal for parents to be involved in major decisions in their teenagers’ lives (like the enormous decision of what to do about an unplanned pregnancy). Nevertheless, this is just not always possible. And it is not okay for parents to have control over their daughters’ reproductive system.

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that parental notification laws are misguided, and in some cases, a very very bad idea. All I meant is that I could sympathize with what I think might be one of the motivations for laws like that.

  5. I think parents forget that they do NOT own the bodies of their children. Our society in general forgets that children are individual human beings that have the same bodily rights that we do. Children are not property… they are humans!

    Yes, a parent might not believe in abortion. But it’s not their choice… it’s the choice of their child who is pregnant. And if you don’t want the kid to have an abortion, do you think that they’re REALLY ready to have a kid, even if they do put it up for adoption? If you’re old enough to have sex, if you’re old enough to get pregnant, you’re old enough to make the choice to get an abortion.

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