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Education

Most Teenagers Found To Notify Parents of Abortions

October 28, 1992 2 min read

A new study of unmarried teenage girls by the Alan Guttmacher Institute questions the need for state laws mandating parental involvement in their daughters’ decisions to have an abortion.

The survey by the instituteÄÄa nonprofit group that studies reproductive health issuesÄÄfound that in states without parental-notification laws, most girls told at least one of their parents before they had an abortion.

It also disclosed that all of the girls who did not tell a parent consulted someone other than staff members at the abortion clinic about the procedureÄÄmost often a boyfriend, 89 percent, or an adult, 52 percent.

As of last August, 36 states had passed laws requiring either parental consent or notification before a teenager can have an abortion.

“Our data provide little evidence of need for blanket parental-involvement requirements, given that among the minors whose parents were unaware of the abortion, more than half were 17 years old, many showed other signs of maturity, and a majority involved an adult other than a parent,’' the researchers Stanley K. Henshaw and Kathryn Kost concluded.

The survey was self-administered, in both English and Spanish, at 46 clinics and doctor’s offices between December 1990 and June 1991. It was conducted only in states without notification or consent laws.

Of the 1,519 girls in the nationally representative sample, 61 percent said at least one of their parents knew about the abortion.

Most girls told their mothers. Only 26 percent said their fathers were aware of the abortion.

Forty percent of the 17-year-olds had told their mothers, compared with 55 percent of girls age 14 or younger. Forty-nine percent of the 17-year-olds did not inform either parent, compared with 10 percent of those age 14 and younger.

Girls who kept their decision to have an abortion a secret from their parents were distinguishable from those who told in several respects, the researchers found.

They were more likely to be white (64 percent versus 49 percent), to live with neither parent (15 percent versus 9 percent), to be employed full time or part time (43 percent versus 23 percent), and to be Catholic (38 percent versus 26 percent).

Notification laws could place some minors at risk, the researchers concluded. They noted that 30 percent of the teenagers who kept their abortions a secret from their parents said they did so because they were afraid of being forced to leave home or because they had been beaten before and feared physical harm.ÄÄM.L.

A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 1992 edition of Education Week as Most Teenagers Found To Notify Parents of Abortions