The Case against Parental Notification for Underage Abortion

The decision to have an abortion is the decision of the person carrying the fetus and their’s alone, no matter how old they are. It would be an egregious breech of doctor-patient confidentiality for a doctor to reveal against the patient’s will that they are to undergo a medical procedure, no matter to whom they are breaking confidentiality. Additionally, if abortion for people underage required parental consent, then that would allow the parents to force their child to go through pregnancy and labor against the person’s will.

Doctor-patient privilege exists so that patients are comfortable talking to their doctors about anything to ensure doctors have correct information when making diagnoses. An abortion is a medical procedure, no matter what the reason for the abortion or how old the person carrying the fetus is. A doctor cannot divulge medical information about a patient without proper cause. There are only a few situations when it is okay to break privilege. When there is a reasonable belief that the patient poses a threat to themselves or others, then the doctor can go to the police or have the patient put in a mental health facility for observation. For children, doctors can break privilege to a social worker if they have reason to suspect abuse. An abortion does not fall into any of these categories, and so is subject to the laws of privilege.

For privilege to be broken in this instance in order to obtain parental consent, parents of the patient could force their child to carry a fetus to term and go through labor. A person’s body is their own, and they must be able to make their own decisions concerning their body. With little children, parents must protect their children’s health and so they force their children to get shots and coerce them into eating their vegetables. But, when a child (who will most likely be a teenager) is considering abortion, they are not presenting an outstanding danger to themselves or putting themselves at an unnecessary risk. People say that abortions can pose health risks, and this is true. It is true of any medical procedure. A person can experience complications while having an appendectomy, but that does not mean if a sixteen year old with appendicitis walks into a hospital alone the doctors have to call their parents for permission to remove the appendix. Because the purpose of an abortion is not to harm the person carrying the fetus, a parent has no grounds to stop their child from having an abortion.
The person who is carrying the fetus is the only person who can decide whether or not to have an abortion, and they should not be subject to undue pressure from anyone, including their parents. If it is the patient’s choice, she can inform her parents of what is going on, she can talk with her parents or her sexual partner and obtain their advice; but the decision of whether or not to have an abortion is ultimately the decision of the person carrying the fetus, and no one else can give consent.