Facing an unplanned pregnancy is rarely easy, but being pregnant as a teenager can feel especially scary and overwhelming — especially if you are considering teen abortion.
If this describes your situation, you may be struggling to find the unbiased information you need about your teen pregnancy abortion options. In this article, find answers to your questions, and get the facts about teen pregnancy and abortion so you can make the best possible choice for yourself and your baby.
Do You Have to Be 18 to Get an Abortion?
Many young women wonder whether it is even possible to obtain an abortion under 18 years of age. You should know that it is possible to have an abortion as a minor; there is not an abortion age limit requiring women to be 18 to access abortion services. However, some states do have laws requiring women under the age of 18 to involve a parent in their abortion process.
Still, no one knows you, your baby or your situation like you do, and you have the right to decide which of your unplanned pregnancy options is right for you. If you believe that teenage abortion is the best solution to your unplanned pregnancy, read on to learn how to get the abortion services you need.
Can You Get an Abortion Without Your Parents Knowing?
So, do you need a parent to get an abortion if you are a minor? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think: It depends.
Most states have parental notification laws requiring minors to tell one or both parents about their abortion decision or to get their permission before obtaining an abortion. Other states do not have parental consent or notification laws at all — so whether or not you need to tell your parents about your abortion all depends on where you live.
Below, find the information you need about teen abortion laws in your state.
States that Allow Abortion without Parental Consent or Involvement
In what states can you get an abortion without parental consent? According to Planned Parenthood, the following states do not require any parental involvement in teen abortion:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
States that Require Parental Involvement or Parental Consent for Abortion
In what states do you need parental consent to get an abortion? This list is a little longer — most states do require some degree of parental involvement in teenage abortion:
- Alabama: Requires permission from at least one parent.
- Alaska: Requires your parents to be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- Arizona: Requires permission from at least one parent.
- Colorado: Requires your parents (or the adult relative you live with) to be notified at least 48 hours before the abortion.
- Delaware: Requires your parents, a grandparent or a mental health professional to be notified 24 hours before the abortion if you are under 16.
- Florida: Requires one parent to be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- Georgia: Requires one parent to be notified 24 hours before the abortion.
- Idaho: Requires permission from at least one parent.
- Illinois: Requires one parent, a stepparent living in the household or a grandparent to be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- Indiana: Requires permission from one parent.
- Iowa: Requires one parent or a grandparent to be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- Kansas: Requires permission from both parents. If parents are divorced or separated, permission is required from the parent with custody.
- Kentucky: Requires permission from one parent.
- Louisiana: Requires permission from one parent.
- Maryland: Requires one parent to be notified before the abortion unless you do not live with either parent and reasonable efforts are made to give notice. A doctor can waive this requirement.
- Massachusetts: Requires permission from one parent.
- Michigan: Requires permission from one parent.
- Minnesota: Requires both parents to be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- Mississippi: Requires permission from both parents. If parents are divorced or separated, permission is required from the parent with primary custody.
- Missouri: Requires permission from one parent.
- Montana: Requires one parent to be notified 48 hours before the abortion if you are under 16. Nebraska: Requires permission from one parent.
- New Hampshire: Requires that one parent be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- North Carolina: Requires permission from one parent or a grandparent with whom you have lived for at least six months immediately preceding the abortion.
- North Dakota: Requires permission from both parents.
- Ohio: Requires permission from a parent, stepparent, grandparent or sibling over the age of 21.
- Oklahoma: Requires one parent to be notified at least 48 hours before the abortion and requires permission from that parent.
- Pennsylvania: Requires permission from one parent.
- Rhode Island: Requires permission from one parent.
- South Carolina: Requires permission from one parent or a grandparent if you are under 17.
- South Dakota: Requires one parent to be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- Tennessee: Requires permission from one parent.
- Texas: Requires permission from one parent and requires that parent to be notified 48 hours before the abortion.
- Utah: Requires permission from one parent and requires that parent to be notified 24 hours before the abortion. A judge can excuse the permission requirement but cannot excuse the notification requirement unless your parent has abused you (and that abuse has been reported by your doctor to the proper authorities) or if your parent has failed to take responsibility for your care.
- Virginia: Requires permission from one parent, a grandparent or adult sibling who lives with you, and requires that your parent, grandparent or adult sibling be notified 24 hours before the abortion.
- West Virginia: Requires one parent to be notified 24 hours before the abortion. A judge or doctor, other than the doctor who will perform the abortion, can waive this requirement.
- Wisconsin: Requires permission from one parent, a foster parent, a grandparent, or an aunt, uncle or sibling who is at least 25 years old.
- Wyoming: Requires one parent to be notified 48 hours before the abortion and requires their permission for the abortion.
While most state laws do not allow minors to obtain an abortion without parents knowing or consenting to the procedure, most states do allow these requirements to be waived by a judge. Except where noted, a judge may be able to excuse you from parental consent or notification requirements in any state.
How to Get an Abortion without Your Parents Knowing
If you want to have an abortion without your parents knowing but you live in a state that requires abortion parental consent or notice, you will need to go through a process called “judicial bypass.”
The judicial bypass process is different in every state, and it can take some time to complete. If you need a judicial bypass, you should talk to your abortion clinic right away for more information; the longer it takes to get court approval for your abortion, the more medical risks and legal restrictions you might face when you seek abortion services.
Your abortion provider or local Planned Parenthood center can explain how to get a judicial bypass in your state. Generally, the process involves completing some forms and meeting with a judge. When you meet with the judge, they may ask you some questions to help them determine whether you are mature enough to make this decision and whether abortion is in your best interest. You may want to contact an attorney to help you through this process.
Some states require judges to use specific criteria when making the decision to waive parental involvement, such as your intelligence, your emotional stability and your understanding of the possible consequences of having an abortion. Some states may also require you to present “clear and convincing” evidence that you are mature enough to make an abortion decision. Your abortion provider or an attorney can help you better understand and prepare for the judicial bypass process in your state.
Talking to Your Parents about Abortion
While your state’s laws or a judicial bypass may make it possible for you to keep your abortion hidden from your parents, it can be emotionally difficult to keep such a big secret to yourself. You should not have to face teen pregnancy and abortion alone.
But talking to your parents about your unplanned pregnancy and teen abortion can be intimidating. Here are some tips you can use to help guide your conversation:
- Talk to them in private. Find a quiet place where you can talk to your parent(s) alone and where you won’t be interrupted.
- Start by telling your parents that you need them. Be honest about your feelings, hopes and fears — let them know if you’re afraid that they will be disappointed in you or that you hope they will be able to offer their help and support.
- Just say it. Be calm and direct. Practice saying the words, “I’m pregnant.”
- Give them time to process, and listen to their response. This is emotional news, and it can be hard for parents to hear. Do your best not to take any negative or hurtful remarks personally; stay calm, and if your parents need some time alone to think, give them space and try talking to them again later once they’ve had a chance to overcome their initial shock.
- Talk about the pregnancy first, and explain your abortion decision later. To avoid overwhelming your parents with difficult news, consider disclosing your pregnancy first and letting them know about your decision to have an abortion later.
- Explain your reasons. When you do tell your parents that you want to have an abortion, be prepared to tell them why. Let them know that you’ve explored all of your options, that you’ve thought your decision through and that you think abortion is truly the best choice for you and your baby. Explain your reasons for wanting an abortion and let them know how much their support of your decision will mean to you.
Your abortion provider or an options counselor may also be able to give you some additional suggestions for talking with your parents about your unplanned pregnancy and teen abortion. If you are afraid of how your parents might react to your news, or if you think you might be in a potentially dangerous situation if your loved ones find out about your pregnancy, talk to another trusted adult or counselor right away. They can help you find the resources you need to escape a potentially abusive environment.
To learn more about your teenage pregnancy options and the resources that are available to you, contact an options counselor, adoption agency or nearby abortion clinic for free information and support.
Remember, this is your body, your life and your baby — and this is a choice only you can make, regardless of your age.