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Women Health. 1995;22(3):47-58.

Missouri's parental consent law and teen pregnancy outcomes.

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State Center for Health Statistics, Missouri Department of Health, Jefferson City 65102-0570, USA.


The Supreme Court decision of July 1989 upholding state regulation of abortion has led to numerous attempts to impose parental consent and/or parental notification legislation for females under the age of 18 seeking abortions. The effect of such legislation on teen pregnancy outcomes is hotly debated. Missouri vital statistics data from 1980 through 1992 are examined for the effect of such a law on pregnancy resolution choices among teens. The Missouri data suggest that since the enforcement of the parental consent statute in 1985 there has been a decrease in the selection of abortion as a pregnancy outcome, particularly among white teens. In addition there has been an increase in the percent of abortions among teens taking place in other states and an irregular but steady trend toward later abortions. The increasing number of births to unmarried mothers under the age of 18 suggest the need for specific services to help these young mothers cope.


Data on live births, fetal deaths, and induced abortions during 1980-92 were analyzed for Missouri residents to determine the potential effect on pregnancy outcomes of the 1985 enforcement of abortion parental consent and/or notification requirements for minors under 18. A comparison was made between data for females under 18 and those who were 18-19 when the pregnancy ended. It was found that the number of pregnancies in adolescents under age 18 declined from 8093 in 1980 to 5610 in 1992, while the number of live births increased from 2972 to 3508 (with a trend against marriage) and the number of abortions decreased about 33% (a 27% decrease was seen for the 18-19 year olds). No indication was found of an increase in the number of infants released for adoption. Since 1985, there has been a steady increase in the number of Missouri teens obtaining abortions in other states. An increase has also occurred in the percent of second semester abortions performed in both age groups both out-of-state and in Missouri. When analyzed by race, the data shows that the abortion rate among Whites under 18 decreased 46% since 1984 and that for Blacks decreased by 19%. Among the older teens, the abortion rate among Whites decreased 33% and that among Blacks increased. These data suggest that parental consent laws may affect the options for pregnant teenagers, especially for Whites. The laws may also delay the seeking of abortions. State, such as Missouri, that restrict access to abortions for minors should be prepared to address the needs of the increasing numbers of single mothers under the age of 18.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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