Adolescents Obtaining Abortion Without Parental Consent: Their Reasons and Experiences of Social Support

Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2020 Mar;52(1):15-22. doi: 10.1363/psrh.12132. Epub 2020 Mar 1.


Context: Most states require adolescents younger than 18 to involve a parent prior to obtaining an abortion, yet little is known about adolescents' reasons for choosing abortion or the social support received by those who seek judicial bypass of parental consent for abortion.

Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 individuals aged 16-19 who sought judicial bypass in Texas between 2015 and 2016 to explore why they chose to get an abortion, who they involved in their decision and what their experiences of social support were. Data were analyzed thematically using stigma and social support theories.

Results: Participants researched their pregnancy options and involved others in their decisions. They chose abortion because parenting would limit their futures, and they believed they could not provide a child with all of her or his needs. Anticipated stigma motivated participants to keep their decision private, although they desired emotional and material support. Not all male partners agreed with adolescents' decisions to seek an abortion, and agreement by some males did not guarantee emotional or material support; some young women described their partners' giving them the "freedom" to make the decision as avoiding responsibility. After a disclosure of their abortion decision, some participants experienced enacted stigma, including shame and emotional abuse.

Conclusions: Abortion stigma influences adolescents' disclosure of their abortion decisions and limits their social support. Fears of disclosing their pregnancies and abortion decisions are justified, and policymakers should consider how laws requiring parental notification may harm adolescents. Further research is needed on adolescents' experiences with abortion stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Parental Consent / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Parental Consent / psychology*
  • Parental Notification / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Social Support*
  • Texas
  • Young Adult