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Family Planning

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly give minors the authority to consent to contraceptive services, and twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia specifically allow pregnant minors to the obtain prenatal care and delivery services without parental consent or notification.

The Title X federal family planning program, which supports clinics that provide contraceptive service and other reproductive health care to minors on a confidential basis and without the need for parental consent or notification, has seen efforts made by Congress to require consent or notification before a minor receives these services. All of these efforts, the most recent in 1998, have failed.

Probably the most controversial area of family planning and minors is abortion. Two states—Connecticut and Maine—as well as the District of Columbia have laws that give minors the right to obtain abortions on their own. In contrast, 31 states currently have laws restricting minors’ rights to obtain abortions by either requiring them to obtain the permission of one or both parents, or to notify one or both of them of the procedure. The rest of the states either have no laws regarding parental consent and notification and abortion or laws that are currently blocked from going into effect by the courts of the state.

The family planning area and its relation to minors has been a difficult one for the states to tackle because of several Supreme Court rulings that have ruled that minors do have a limited right of privacy in respect to family planning issues. The Court has ruled that if states are going to restrict the right of minors to have an abortion, they have to provide an alternative to the requirement of parental consent, to allow the minor to show she is mature enough to make the decision of having an abortion herself. This alternative is generally in the form of a judicial bypass—permitting a court to make the decision regarding whether the minor can get an abortion. Maryland allows a “physician bypass” that permits a doctor to waive parental notice if the minor is capable of giving informed consent or if notice would lead to abuse of the minor.

States that require consent before a minor may have an abortion include Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming. States requiring notification before a minor’s abortion include Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

Also, because the Supreme Court rulings, states that do not explicitly allow minors to obtain contraceptive and prenatal care services without parental consent still must permit this to happen in practice, as the court has ruled that these are services that are covered by the minors’ right to privacy. However, states can still impose limitations on minors’ ability to obtain these services, based on factors such as age, marriage status, medical condition or who referred the minors for treatment. In addition, two states—Utah and Texas—prohibit the use of state funds to provide contraceptive services to minors without parental consent.

Inside Family Planning