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Fam Plann Perspect. 1983 Nov-Dec;15(6):259-67.

Judging teenagers: how minors fare when they seek court-authorized abortions.



Judicial bypass laws, laws that say that an unmarried minor who seeks an abortion is required to notify or obtain consent of their parents, were passed with the idea of encouraging family communication. However, family communication is not being encouraged in many United States families. Many minors feel that they cannot do this. They are often living in a difficult tumultuous family situation. Many judges believe that, when this is the case, forcing the girl to appear in court before she can have an abortion does no good. Many people believe that these laws have made it harder for teenagers to obtain abortions. This is what the sponsors of these laws had in mind. Many teenagers have to travel long distances to get to court. Courts are not open evenings or weekends. On the whole, it is the 16 and 17-year-olds who go to court. Younger teenagers are more likely to consult their parents. In Massachusetts between April 23, 1981--the day the abortion consent law took effect--and mid-September, 1983, 1571 minors went to court. Of the 563 petitions heard by the Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, 297 (53%) were filed by 17-year-olds; and 76 (31%), by 16-year-olds. In Minnesota, 1478 minors went to court between August 1, 1981 and August 31, 1983. The juvenile court in Minneapolis which heard 974 of these petitions reports that 527 (54%) were filed by 17-year-olds; and and 326 (33%) by 16-year-olds. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the minors who go to court are mostly white, and middle or upper-class. In Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island there is a 2-4 day wait for a hearing. Minority, poor, and rural minors are denied the option of going to court.

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