An abortion is the legal right to terminate a pregnancy. The historic case Roe vs. Wade is the essential landmark ruling, linking women’s right to privacy as the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. 

While there are various guidelines and restriction placed on minors seeking an abortion, the presence of an attorney is not needed. One important requirement for a minor’s ability to obtain an abortion is their age. Depending the age of the minor and state, parental consent may be needed before an abortion can be performed.

Who is a Minor?

Generally, persons under the age of 18 are considered minors. However, there are a few states where the age of majority is higher; such as Mississippi where the age of majority 21 and Nebraska’s is 19. Therefore, women under the age of majority are legally required to take additionally step before they are allowed to terminate their pregnancy. 

Also note, the age of consent to have an important medical procedure (i.e. an abortion), is not the same as the age of sexual consent, which also vary from state to state. For example, in the state of Mississippi, at 16 a minor is considered older enough to make decisions on their own involving sex. 

However, also in Mississippi, a minor must be 18 inorder to have an abortion without BOTH parents consent. Essectionally, although a minor is considered old enough to make the decison to engage in sexual activites with another, they may not be old enough to terminate a pregancy that came as a direct result of the choice to have sex.   

Furthermore, there are a few situations where parental consent may not impact the minor’s ability to have an abortion performed such as: judicial consent or emancipation. Judicial consent is a way to ensure parent(s) or guardians can not 100 percent interfere with the legal right of a minor. In this case a minor is allowed to seek the permission of a judge as an alternative. Judicial consent and emancipation are explained in greater detail below.

What is Parental Consent and Who Can Give It?

Parental consent is the right a parent or guardian has that places limitations on a minor’s ability to make decisions on their own. Parental consent can be given by the parent(s) or legal guardian. A legal guardian is an adult that the courts have made responsible for the minors actions. 

In cases where the minor’s parents do not have legal custody of the minor; meaning the courts have placed limitations on the parents rights, the minor must get consent from their appointed guardian. The following states only require one parent’s consent: AL, AZ, AR, ID, IN, KY, LA, MA, MI, MO, NE, NC, OH, PN, RI, SC,TN, TX, UT and WI. 

Understand, laws are not the same across the state. This next set of states only requires the minor to inform their parent or guardian at least 24-48 hours before getting an abortion: CO, DE, FL, GA, IL, IA, MD, MT, NH, OK, SD, VA, WV, and WY. 

Lastly, these states and the District of Columbia do not require parental involvement: CA, HI, AK, CT, NV, OR, ME, NJ, NM, NY and VT.

When is Consent from Both Parents Required?

In the states where consent of both parents are needed before a minor can get an abortion, the parent must have legal custody over the minor. Legal custody is more than physical. Essentially, a minor can live with only one parent full time, but both parents still joint consent power. 

Therefore, the parent must have the authority to give permission for the minor’s action in order to give or withhold consent. If a parent does not have parental rights or does not share joint legal custody with the predominant parent in control, then they are then not able to object to the minor ability to have the procedure. The following states require consent from both parents: KS, MN, MS and ND. 

What are Some Alternatives to Parental Consent?

Based on the minor’s situation, the options to parental consent vary. Before any alternative is granted the maturity level, circumstances, and the minor’s best interest must all be considered.

1.Emancipation is a process that ends the parent’s legal authority over their child. Thus, after a child has been emancipated they are no longer required to first get a parent’s permission to obtain an abortion.

  1. Judicial consent is another alternative to parental consent. Depending on the situation, in some case a judge can grant a minor legal permission to terminate a pregnancy.The following state allow a minor to get permission from a judge to have an abortion: FL, ID, IN, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, PA, OK, OH, IA, ND, KY, NH, LA, NE, GA, MO, MA, MI, MN, IL, MT, VA, WV, WI, WY.
  2. For health reasons, by law no woman is required to endure a pregnancy that puts their life at risk. Thus, if it is unsafe for a minor to carry a child to term, parental consent would not need to be obtained.                       

Does Parental Consent Give the Parent Authority to Force a Minor to Terminate a Pregnancy?

An abortion is a right to choose to terminate a pregancy. A parent does not have the authority to force a minor to have an abortion. Abortion laws do not grant parents the authority to remove the minor’s choice.Therefore, a minor cannot be forced to have an abortion simply because they are pregnant.

Do I need an Attorney?

Generally having an abortion does not require the presence of an attorney. However, in the case where the minor is seeking judicial bypass and they are filing for an emancipation, then it is best to get a second opinion from an attorney. If you believe you need legal assistance, then contact a local family law attorney for more help.