45% of teens seeking abortion consult parents States studied had no notification law

October 20, 1992|By Karen Schneider | Karen Schneider,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON — Early editions of The Sun on Tuesday incorrectly referred to the Alan Guttmacher Institute in second reference as Mr. Guttmacher. In fact, Dr. Guttmacher, a Baltimore and New York obstetrician for whom the institute was named, died in 1974.

The Sun regrets the error.

WASHINGTON -- Forty-five percent of teen-agers seeking abortions consult their parents in states where they are not required by law to do so, the first major study in a decade of teen-agers and abortions shows.

Overall, in 61 percent of the cases, at least one parent knows of the their daughter's decision. In 16 percent of the cases, someone else tells the parents of the decision -- sometimes on the teen-ager's behalf -- or they find out on their own, while 45 percent of the teen-agers tell at least one parent themselves.


Another 20 percent of young women consult with aunts, teachers or other adults before deciding whether to end an unwanted pregnancy, according to the study made public by the Alan Guttmacher Institute. The institute is a non-profit research organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The new findings are sure to fan debate over the merits of state laws requiring young women to notify a parent or obtain their consent for an abortion.

Guttmacher said the institute's study "provides little evidence that blanket parental involvement requirements are beneficial to teen-agers."

The study concluded that only 7 percent of teen-agers sampled might have been better off had they involved a parent or adult; the rest either already had, were considered mature enough to make the decision themselves or would have put themselves at risk by telling a parent.

Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes abortion, focused on the report's findings about young women who did not consult their parents.

"What we need to remember is that the purpose of the laws on parental notice and parental consent are to make sure that the abortion industry doesn't take advantage of vulnerable and immature minors," Ms. Franz said.

The study found little evidence of abortion opponents' charge that clinics coerced women into getting abortions. Two percent said someone at the clinic tried to push them into the abortion, while 1 percent said the clinic pressured them to continue the pregnancy.

It appears parents are most likely to do the arm-twisting.

Eighteen percent of young women who didn't voluntarily tell their parents, but whose parents discovered their pregnancy, reported being forced to have an abortion.

Abortion-rights supporters say they also are troubled by the study's finding that 12 percent of young women thought they would face physical harm or be thrown out of their house if forced to tell their parents about their pregnancy.

The study found that despite increasing involvement of men in family life, only one-quarter of the fathers knew about their daughters' pregnancies as compared to half of the mothers.

The survey of 1,519 unmarried women 17 and younger was conducted from December 1990 to June 1991. Women were given questionnaires in 46 abortion clinics in states without laws on parental involvement.

In 1988, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 172,000 women age 17 or younger had an abortion.

National surveys show that Americans think those teen-agers should involve a parent in the abortion decision.

In January, a survey by the Gallup Organization found that 70 percent favored laws requiring women under 18 to get their parents' permission for the procedure.

As of August, 19 states had laws requiring notice or consent of at least one parent, while 17 other states have similar laws that have been enjoined by courts or are not being enforced. Even in states without such laws, most abortion providers say they urge teen-agers to inform their parents.

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