Gender Issues

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 3–39 | Cite as

Choosing abortion: Teens who make the decision without parental involvement

  • J. Shoshanna Ehrlich

Abstract

In the landmark case of Bellotti v. Baird, the Supreme Court assumed both that pregnant teens lack the capacity to make the abortion decision for themselves, and that parental involvement serves as a beneficial counterweight to youthful immaturity. Since this decision, the Court has not wavered from its belief in the interconnected assumptions about teen decisional incapacity and the benefits of parental involvement, despite the growing body of literature documenting the decisional abilities of teens. Compounding this omission, the Court has also failed to consider the fact that minors possess significant medical self-consent rights, particularly when it comes to pregnancy and other sensitive medical decisions.

This article examines how these flaws compromise the integrity of the Court's position. It then presents the results of a research study on the experience of young women in Massachusetts who chose to seek judicial authorization for an abortion, rather than involve their parents. Drawing on in-depth interviews, the article allows young women to be heard within the context of their own lives. Speaking about their decision to abort, their reasons for not involving their parents, and the nature of the court experience, their voices provide a rich counter-narrative to the Court's pinched representation of adolescent reality, and enable us to see how important it is to listen to what teens have to say about their own lives, rather than simply accepting the Court's portrayal of their reality.

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Copyright information

© Transaction Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Shoshanna Ehrlich
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Public and Community ServiceUniversity of MassachusettsBoston

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