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The effect of parental involvement laws on the timing of teenagers’ abortions

Shana Judge, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, 2009
See also executive summary.

Project abstract

This project will study the effect of so-called “parental involvement laws” on the timing of teenagers’ abortions. A majority of states have implemented these laws, which require a parent to be notified of or consent to the decision of minor to undergo the procedure. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has ruled that laws requiring parental consent must include a provision for waiving or bypassing the requirement. Almost all states meet this mandate by permitting minors to file a petition in court, asking a judge for permission to bypass the law.

Previous studies have shown that in response to the laws, some minors who seek abortions may petition for a judicial bypass, delay their abortions until they turned 18, or travel to a nearby state without a law to obtain the procedure. Thus, parental involvement laws may affect the timing of a minor’s abortion to some degree. As a result, the laws may also affect a minor’s choice between a medical or surgical abortion.

To estimate the impact of these laws on abortion timing, this project will use a regression discontinuity approach to examine individual-level data on induced abortions reported to the National Center for Health Statistics by 14 states in selected years. In addition, this project will collect data from state administrative court offices on the number of judicial bypass petitions filed in these states. Using this data, the project will test the hypotheses that parental involvement laws and increases in the number of bypass petitions filed are associated with statistically significant increases in the fetal gestational age of minors’ abortions.

An analysis of the data in this 14-state sample can help determine whether collecting similar data across more states over a longer time frame will improve the generalizability of the results and the project’s ability to inform policy making.

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