PARENTAL CONSENT FOR PRENATAL CARE

PARENTAL CONSENT FOR PRENATAL CARE. The North Dakota legislature recently failed to pass legislation that would have guaranteed pregnant teens the right to seek prenatal care without notifying their parents. Current state law requires parental consent to treat pregnant women under 18.

Conservatives are wailing that explicitly stating there is no parental notification requirement would "drive a wedge between the daughter and the parents." But isn't it obvious that, if a young woman has chosen to carry her pregnancy to term without telling her parents, she most likely has a compelling reason for keeping them in the dark? And if a teenage girl faces very little support at home for keeping her pregnancy -- which, presumably, is the reason she would keep this info from her parents -- then you would think anti-abortion activists would be in favor of this legislation. After all, they love to publicize cases where parents have coerced their daughters into abortions. You would think that this legislation would prevent that from happening.

The disconnect in requiring parental notification for abortion but not for prenatal care has been pointed out by legal groups opposing laws that meddle with teens' reproductive rights. A Guttmacher Policy Review article from 2000 found no states that require parental consent or notification for teens to receive prenatal care, whereas more than 20 required it for abortion.

Other sources say 27 states and DC "specifically allow pregnant minors to the obtain prenatal care and delivery services without parental consent or notification." And last year Colorado decided to grant teens confidentiality rights when it comes to prenatal care. Too bad North Dakota won't be joining their ranks.

--Ann Friedman

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