FAQs Answered: On Abortion Access for Minors

By Elana Margosis

You’re a minor. You need an abortion. And you probably have a ton of questions. Here’s some answers.

Do my parents need to know?

Not necessarily. 38 states have laws that require you to either obtain consent for your abortion, require your parents to be notified of your abortion, and in a few states, both. Planned Parenthood lists every state’s parental involvement requirements on their website. In all of these states, however, there is a process you can go through to skip these requirement called judicial bypass.

If you have a medical emergency, many states will allow you to get an abortion without your parents knowing.

What is judicial bypass?            

A judge can excuse you from your state’s requirement to get permission or tell your guardian about your abortion. This is called judicial bypass.

Getting a judicial bypass is free, and some states will appoint someone to help you through the process for no cost (more on that later!).

Typically, you will file paperwork in a district court and within a few days, you will meet with a judge. The meeting will likely be informal and held in the judge’s office. The judge will deliver a decision within a few days. In some states, if the judge does not deliver a decision within the specified time, you are free to get an abortion.

However, parental involvement and judicial bypass laws were championed by anti-choice groups, and are designed to take the decision-making power out of teens’ hands and put it in the hands of the judges. Some judges are politically motivated to restrict abortion access, so it may not be in your best interest to get a judicial bypass if you feel safe and comfortable telling your guardian about your abortion.

Who can help me through the process of a judicial bypass?

The clinic where you’re planning on getting your abortion may be able to help you through the process. Calling the clinic is a great first step in the process, since clinics are often more helpful than the courts in initiating the process.

Alternatively, the American Civil Liberties Union might be able to help you find counsel.

If you live in Texas, Jane’s Due Process can help you through the judicial bypass, funding your abortion, and having the procedure itself.

Some states will appoint you free legal counsel.

How much will it cost? Do I need insurance? Will my parents find out if I provide my insurance information?

A judicial bypass is free, but the abortion is not. The cost depends on a number of factors, including how advanced the pregnancy is. If you need help funding your abortion, the National Network of Abortion Funds can help you with the costs.

Depending on the state you live in, Medicaid can cover your abortion if it is deemed medically necessary.

Your insurance plan may or may not cover the cost of the abortion. If it does, you have an option for confidentiality, but isn’t perfect. Minors can ask the insurer to ensure confidential communication under the privacy rule under HIPAA, but many insurers aren’t familiar with the rule and might not know how to handle your request. The second problem is that all communications become confidential, meaning that your parent won’t get any of your medical information (including things like check-ups), which could be very problematic for you.

Can I change my mind after getting permission from the judge?

Yes. If the judge allows you to get an abortion, you now have the freedom to choose to get an abortion or carry the pregnancy to term.

What if the judge does not accept my petition?

If the judge does not accept your petition, you have the right to appeal. This process will be very similar to the process you just went through, but it will be with a higher level court.

Anti-abortion extremists have seriously restricted abortion access for minors.

After deciding that you want to have an abortion, your first step should be contacting the clinic you plan on using. Make sure it’s a real clinic and not a so-called “crisis pregnancy center.” CPCs use junk science, lies, and scare tactics to intimidate women out of having an abortion. Planned Parenthood has a clinic finder on their website that is a good first step in finding a clinic if you’re not sure where to start. If you’d like to start a movement to raise awareness about these CPCs on your campus, check out our toolkit.

Remember, at the end of the day, what you choose to do with your body is your choice. If you want to talk through your options with an unbiased professional, get help funding your abortion, and learn more about abortion laws in your state, the National Abortion Federation has a hotline you can call.

By Elana Margosis

Elana is a summer intern for FMF working on the Education Equity Program and Girls Learn International. She is a rising fresh(wo)man at Rice University, where she hopes to turn Texas blue.

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