Parental involvement in minors' abortion decisions

S K Henshaw, K Kost
Family Planning Perspectives 1992, 24 (5): 196-207, 213
In a 1991 study based on a nationally representative sample of more than 1,500 unmarried minors having an abortion, 61% of the respondents said that one or both of their parents (usually the mother) knew about the abortion. Only 26% of the respondents said their father knew about the abortion; furthermore, 57% of the mothers who knew about their daughter's pregnancy did not tell her father. In this study, which was conducted in states without parental involvement laws in effect, about 75% of the parents who knew about the pregnancy had been told by the daughter herself, and the great majority supported their daughter's decision to have an abortion. Among the minors whose parents found out without being told by the minor, 18% said their parents were forcing them to have an abortion and 6% reported physical violence, being forced to leave home or damage to their parents' health. Minors who did not tell their parents were disproportionately older (aged 16 or 17), white and employed. The minors' most common reasons for not telling their parents were wanting to preserve their relationship with their parents and wanting to protect the parents from stress and conflict. Of those who did not tell their parents, 30% had experienced violence in their family, feared that violence would occur or were afraid of being forced to leave home. Among minors whose parents were unaware of the pregnancy, all consulted someone other than clinic staff about the abortion; most frequently, they consulted their boyfriend (89%), an adult (52%) or a professional (22%).

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