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Describing the impact of parental involvement laws for minors seeking abortion care: the case of Massachusetts

Elizabeth Janiak, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, 2016

Project abstract

Background: Laws mandating parental consent or notification for minors seeking abortion currently affect girls in 38 states. Over the last three years, legislators proposed over 90 measures to introduce new or strengthen existing laws in 27 states. Despite their prevalence, parental involvement laws' effects on girls' access to and experience of abortion remain poorly described, a gap largely attributable to lack of robust individual-level data on affected girls. In particular, the impact of seeking a court order to bypass the parental involvement requirement (“judicial bypass”) is inadequately understood. We will fill this gap utilizing unique sources of individual-level medical and legal data available due to the centralization of resources for girls seeking abortion in Massachusetts.

Methods: Through retrospective review of clinical records, legal referral information, and practice management data for over 2,000 girls ≤ 17 years who sought abortion between 2010 and 2015, we will: 1) enumerate girls' reasons for seeking judicial bypass, 2) compare demographics between girls with parental consent and judicial bypass, 3) calculate individual-level abortion delay attributable to the bypass process and 4) determine the extent to which girls are denied medication abortion, first trimester abortion care, or any abortion as a result of advancing gestation due to judicial bypass delay.

Potential impact: This investigation will provide legislators, voters, parents, and young people with critical information to understand the impact of parental involvement laws, and whether they should support new laws and/or repeal or alter existing laws to promote health equity and support girls' wellbeing.


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