If Roe is struck down, parental consent laws will keep them in danger – New York Daily News

Let’s assume the leaked draft majority opinion holds, and this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court, as expected, issues a ruling in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization stating that the 1973 case legalizing abortion nationwide, Roe v. Wade, was wrongly decided.

Now imagine it’s October, and a 17-year-old teenage girl (call her Carly) discovers she is pregnant. Carly is shocked — she and her boyfriend usually use condoms and she can’t believe she got so unlucky as to get pregnant one of the few times they slipped up.

She decides she needs an abortion. Carly reads online about the drugs used to induce abortion and discovers they are safe and effective, with a track record of 30 years of use around the world. However, following the Dobbs decision, Carly’s home state of Alabama, along with 25 others, has banned abortion.

Carly is flooded with relief when she learns abortion is not banned in Kansas, a nearby state she can feasibly reach by car. When she calls a clinic in Kansas to make an appointment for a medication abortion, she hits an unexpected obstacle: Kansas law requires that not one but both of her parents’ consent to her abortion. Carly is crushed.

As the Supreme Court continues to uphold more and more state-level abortion restrictions, the future of Roe v. Wade currently rests on shaky grounds. In the likely event that Roe v. Wade is overturned or laws such as the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban at issue in Dobbs, are upheld, many individuals seeking abortion access will be forced to travel to states that are less hostile and will continue to provide abortion services.

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But federalism isn’t an answer, because these states will not serve as a haven for all abortion-seekers equally. Abortion access will continue to be restricted among minors due to parental involvement laws for abortion, which are currently in place in 38 states, including many like Massachusetts, Colorado and New Hampshire, that are unlikely to outlaw abortion outright. For young people, it is imperative to repeal parental involvement laws for minors accessing abortion services in a post-Roe landscape.

In Carly’s case, parental consent is impossible. Her parents are going through a stressful divorce and it is not feasible to engage her estranged father in the consent process. Carly learns it is possible to obtain a court order for her abortion instead, through a process known as a judicial bypass, but recognizes that securing a hearing could take weeks, she will have to go through state-required counseling, and the wait for the decision can take up to four additional days. As a result, Carly is left with no other options but to travel farther from home to Illinois to continue her pregnancy, or to seek out potentially unsafe alternatives to legal abortion.

Interestingly enough, if Carly were to decide to continue her pregnancy in Alabama, she would be held responsible and deemed competent to consent to her own medical treatment during her pregnancy and to make decisions with regard to her fetus. Thus, it is entirely inconsistent to assume that minors are not competent to make their own decisions surrounding pregnancy termination. In fact, research suggests that most minors aged 14-17 are as competent as adults to understand the risk and benefits of medical treatments and are able to make rational and independent decisions. Moreover, in most circumstances, young people want to involve their parents in their medical care, including abortion, and choose to do so even in the absence of parental involvement laws.

So why do parental involvement laws exist, and why are they so popular? To abortion opponents, these laws are simply another useful tool to impede abortion access. And to many people who believe abortion should be legal, these particular laws appear logical. We believe that parental involvement laws express many people’s aspirations for our society: that every child should live in a supportive home where sharing the intimate details of their lives is safe and supported.

But we know that when it comes to abortion, not every young person lives in such a home. Instead of encouraging healthy communication in families, parental involvement laws lead to delayed access to abortion or to an outright denial of access to abortion care.

Carly, of course, is a fictional composite, but we’ve met many girls and young people just like her. As reproductive health researchers and advocates in a progressive state with a parental consent law for abortion, we have witnessed firsthand the distress, delay and harm that parental involvement laws for abortion inflict. We know that as abortion access shrinks geographically, removing other barriers around the logistics of accessing care will grow ever more critical. For the sake of young people, advocates in blue and purple states must start working now to remove these harmful laws.

Jain is a medical student and masters in public policy student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Janiak is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.