Parental Notification Laws Do Not Lower Abortion Rates

A recent analysis of states that enacted parental notification or consent laws has shown that the addition of these requirements did not lead to a decline in the abortion rate among teenagers. The study was conducted by the New York Times, which released its findings today. Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia were studied, as they enacted parental involvement laws between 1995 and 2004, allowing researchers to track changes in teenage pregnancy and abortion rates over the past decade. The study found that these laws did not cause decreases in pregnancies or abortions, and could not be used to predict any changes in the abortion rate. In fact, abortions among teenagers rose slightly in Arizona, Idaho, and Tennessee.

According to the New York Times, the lack of a traceable effect from parental notification laws may be explained by the simple idea that most teenagers would tell their parents about a pregnancy whether there was a legal requirement or not. This made the reality of these laws irrelevant to many young women, although the laws negatively affected young women who faced unstable or abusive family relationships and had to obtain a judicial bypass before getting an abortion.

Furthermore, the laws may have the unintended consequence of leading to unsafe home abortions. Renee Chelian, director of Northland Family Planning Centers told the Times, “When we tell them they need to go to court or tell their parents, that’s when they tell us there’s a Web site,” that claims to tell users how to induce an abortion.

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Kaiser Network 3/6/06; New York Times 3/6/06

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