Parental Notification Laws For Abortion

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate July 2001

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More than one million teenagers in the United States will become pregnant this year. Eighty percent of these pregnancies are unintended, nearly all of the teens are unwed, and forty percent will choose abortion (Reproductive freedom, 1). With girls aged seventeen years old and younger, most states require by law that at least one parent must be notified or give consent before an abortion can be performed. Currently, thirty-two states have either parental consent or notification laws, and eight are pending (The Abortion Controversy, 108/Website 3, 1-2). Despite the good intentions of parental consent and notification laws, they have caused great tragedies, such as that of Becky Bell. In 1988, Becky Bell was a pregnant, seventeen-year-old junior attending Indianapolis High School. She wanted to have an abortion, but Indiana state law required that she obtain the consent of one of her parents. Aware of her father's potential disappointment, she opted to travel out-of-state to Kentucky where she could terminate her pregnancy without the consent of her parents.

A day before her trip, she grew anxious and became emotionally unstable; and while attempting to self-abort, she lost her own life. (Teenagers and abortion, 1). Today, William Bell, her father, is fighting the consent laws that, he believes, killed his daughter (2). Becky's tragic death points to the horrible implications and consequences of these laws. Although parental consent and notification laws are designed to aid parents in helping their daughters with the decisions to terminate their pregnancies, protect their health, and improve family communication, these laws actually are unconstitutional, and pose real physical and emotional threats to teenage girls seeking abortions.

On January 22nd, 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Texas law outlawing abortion was unconstitutional. This overturned all previous laws that banned abortion, in...