Extracted from a column that addresses the most important questions about sex, dating, relationships and all the gray areas that are among them.
P: I am 16 years old, I have an unwanted pregnancy. I am not sure if I am allowed to have an abortion without my parents’ permission, but I am very afraid to tell them because both are against abortion. That I have to do?
A: One Saturday night, when I was 15, my boyfriend came back from the bathroom after sex and informed me that the condom had broken. Plan B was only available with a prescription at the time, so I spent the next day calling clinics, most of which were closed on Sundays. I became obsessed with a possible unplanned pregnancy with my best friend over the phone. I knew for sure that I did not want a baby, and they raised me with very little embarrassment about sex. Then, when my mission the next morning failed, you would think that my next step would have been to talk to my mother; After all, she had fought for reproductive rights since the 1960s. And I was still terrified to go to her for help.
To my relief, my mother finally helped me get Plan B without judging or reprimanding me. But if my teenager had a hard time addressing the issue of a hypothetical pregnancy with my parents choice, I can only imagine how overwhelming it feels to announce a real pregnancy, much less the desire to abort, under any circumstances, really, but especially to parents who are against, and especially for a time in the history of the United States when the bodily autonomy of people with a uterus is under serious threat.
First of all, I am here to tell you that you have nothing to be ashamed of. Accidents can happen even to the most careful among us. And it is logical that if adolescents are mature enough to become parents, be mature enough to decide whether or not they want to give birth. Having access to abortion must be their right, regardless of their parents’ beliefs.
Unfortunately, not all state legislatures agree with me. Roe v. Wade considered access to safe and legal abortion a constitutional right in 1973, but only six years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Bellotti v. Baird states could insist that a minor obtain the consent of the parents. Now, 21 states require that at least one parent provide consent for an abortion if the patient is under 18, 11 states require notification of at least one parent and 5 states require both consent and notification.
Then let’s talk about logistics: your first step is to know the rules of your state when it comes to parental consent (although there are ways to circumvent those rules depending on what state you are in, more on this later). If you live in one of the few states where a child can have an abortion without parental involvement, and if you do not want to tell your parents, you are ready. But if the law requires your parents to participate, it’s time to do a conscience search about how you think you will react when you directly confront your pregnant daughter’s desire to not be.
One thing I’ve learned from investigating and reporting on these issues is that, supposedly, Americans who oppose abortion often have abortions. They often help their children to seek abortions. Do you know those activists who are outside the clinics with posters adorned with Bible verses and pictures of fetuses? Sometimes even abortions are done. Dr. Yashica Robinson, board member of Reproductive Health Physicians and medical director of the Alabama Alternatives for Women’s Reproductive Center, in a state that has just passed an almost total abortion ban, even in the case of rape or incest, says he performed the procedure on some of the same people who protest abortions. “People do not really know what they think about abortion until they are in position themselves,” he told me at a recent round table of abortion providers. She has witnessed untiring patients against abortion who say to her in tears: “I will never judge another woman again”.