Get Real! She’s Under 18, How Can She Get an Abortion?


Anonymous asks:

My
girlfriend is 17, and I am 19. We had unprotected sex a few days after
she finished her period. I know its foolish to not use protection,
however we both decided we didn’t want anything in between us. I made
certain that I didn’t ejaculate inside her. She might be pregnant, but
right now I’m really just looking at all the options. The state we live
in, Virginia, requires one parent to be notified of a decision to get
an abortion. However, in Washington D.C. there are no rules saying a
minor has to contact or notify her parents or anything. I’ve read that
it is illegal to transport or drive the minor across state lines to get
an abortion. Is that true? If yes, could she drive the car and I be a
passenger? Or follow her in my car? If she is pregnant, I know she
wouldn’t want to get her abortion alone… so what is the current laws
on this? I have the money to pay for it!

Heather replies:

Let’s
first briefly review the state of things in the states when it comes to
minors and access to abortion, since you’re hardly the only person who
has ever asked about this. Worldwide access would be a way bigger
piece, but sound information on global access can be found in this bibilography.

(If you prefer to get right to what your options are and what I
think your risk here was first, scroll down the page a bit. Then you
can pop back up here to find out more about the laws and policies in
general.)

The National Women’s Law Center has a fantastic page of legal issues regarding abortion access overall which is fantastic here.
I want to outline some of what it includes about abortion access for
minors, but you can take a look at that page yourself for more
information.

Currently, 27 states require parental consent to abortion for women
under 18. Those are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Missouri,
Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah,
Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Parental consent means that a young
women will have to have at least one parent or guardian give her
permission in order to have an abortion, and that a doctor legally
requires that permission in order to provide that woman with an
abortion.

16 states restrict young women’s access to abortion by requiring
parental notice. Those are Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa,
Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, MN, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada,
Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Parental notice means that
at least one parent or guardian of a young women will be notified about
her abortion. She will not need their permission — in other words,
even if they say she can’t have one, they cannot legally stop her from
terminating — but her abortion cannot and will not be kept private
from her parents or guardians.

In both cases, there is also something called a Judicial Bypass.
That is the option for a young woman to go through the courts to obtain
legal permission to have an abortion without parental notification or
consent. To do that, she will need to first contact a local abortion
provider to get information she needs on it. Then, she will have to
hire an attorney and they’ll file her case. When her case comes up, it
is a private hearing — there isn’t a jury or anything — and what the
judge will do is make a determination on if she is mature enough to
make her own decision about her pregnancy. This blog entry from has a fantastic, simple list, state-by-state, of a young woman’s first steps in seeking out a Judicial Bypass.

Obviously, going through the courts is hardly ideal. Terminating a
pregnancy is a time-sensitive issue — and providers and states differ
in terms of how late in a pregnancy they will do a termination — and
sometimes court cases can take a while to come up. Even finding the
money to pay the lawyer and any court fees can be tough, and the longer
a woman waits to get an abortion, the more it costs, to boot. As well,
some women don’t feel the same about abortion at all stages of a
pregnancy. For example, a woman who feels comfortable terminating at
six weeks may not feel the same way about terminating at 12 or 18
weeks. Some simply will not want to have to defend their right to make
their own reproductive choices for any number of reasons.

Some states also have laws or policies around a minor being
transported to another state for a procedure, and/or who transports the
minor. As well, in some states it is unlawful for an adult who is not a
relative of the minor, or does not have parental permission from a
parent or guardian, to transport a minor out of state for any number of
reasons.

I personally have very strong objections to most of these laws and
policies as they relate to reproductive rights. I feel they endanger
young women and are also a big infringement on young women’s most basic
human rights. However, they exist, and while we can fight them — and I
encourage anyone who cares about sound and humane reproductive rights to do that — until or unless we can get them struck down, abortion access is limited and defined by them whether we like it or not.

What does this mean to you, specifically? I am unclear on if
it would be criminal for you to drive her out of state, either for an
abortion or any other purpose. I should also note that In Virginia, the
age of consent is 18, and it is not lawful for anyone over 18 to have
sex with a minor in the first place, and the fact that you have already
broken that law may influence your risks in this.

I think it is also possible that this section of the laws of
Virginia around the age of consent could present possible issues for
you per transporting her out of state for an abortion:

§ 18.2-371. Causing or encouraging acts rendering children delinquent, abused, etc.; penalty; abandoned infant.

Any person 18 years of age or older, including the parent of any
child, who (i) willfully contributes to, encourages, or causes any act,
omission, or condition which renders a child delinquent, in need of
services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected as defined in
§ 16.1-228, or (ii) engages in consensual sexual intercourse with a
child 15 or older not his spouse, child, or grandchild, shall be guilty
of a Class 1 misdemeanor. This section shall not be construed as
repealing, modifying, or in any way affecting §§ 18.2-18, 18.2-19,
18.2-61, 18.2-63, 18.2-66, and 18.2-347.

She could, however, absolutely drive herself and/or go with another
friend who is also under 18 to D.C. for a termination out-of-state. She
also could seek permission from one of her parents or seek out a
judicial bypass so she could terminate in Virginia.

No matter what, she’d start by calling her local abortion
provider first for information if, again, an abortion is what she
wanted. Your local abortion provider is also the best person to get
information from about all of your local laws and policies.

You say she "might" be pregnant. If it has been less than 120 hours
since this risk and she wants to prevent a pregnancy, she has the
option of using emergency contraception. Given you are over 18, one way
you can help if she wants that is to go and get it from a pharmacy. It
is an over-the-counter (though you need to ask a pharmacist for it)
medication for legal adults that does not require a prescription. Or,
she can get a prescription for herself through her general doctor, her
sexual healthcare provider, a walk-in clinic or a hospital emergency
room. It does sound like while you used condoms incorrectly, you did
use withdrawal correctly. Withdrawal isn’t one of the best methods of
contraception — in typical use, it’s one of the least effective — but
it is a method, and if you did use it perfectly, her risk of pregnancy
was probably moderate or low. I still tend to suggest emergency
contraception with withdrawal, especially for young women who tend to
be more fertile than the rest of us.

The risks of sexually transmitted infections are also at play here:
don’t forget about managing those. I’d suggest both of you schedule a
full screening in the next month or two.

If it is too late for emergency contraception, or she doesn’t want
to use it, then she (and you) will want to first start with a pregnancy
test if her period is late or it has been at least two weeks or so
since her risk. If that much time hasn’t passed yet, you’ll both need
to wait until then. When that time has come, if her test is positive,
then it’s time for her to consider her options, based on what she feels
is best for herself and her life. You don’t say anything in your post
about what she wants, so I don’t know if abortion is what she would
choose for herself: this is her choice, not yours. So we’re clear, you
made your own reproductive choices when it came to deciding if you were
or were not going to have a kind of sex with a risk of pregnancy, and
then in choosing that, in opting not to use condoms properly. If she
were to decide to remain pregnant and seek out an adoptive family, you
have the option of consenting to that or not (though the fact that the
sex was statutory rape may remove that right in some courts), and if
she were to decide to parent, while you don’t have a choice per some
financial support, it is up to you whether or not you actively
co-parent. But from here on out, much of the rest of these choices are
hers, which is sensible since the burden of a pregnancy is also far
more hers than yours.

But she should start with that pregnancy test first. I know how
scary a possible pregnancy can be, but it only makes so much sense to
get in a tizzy about options and limitations before a pregnancy has
even been verified.

From here forward, as I mention in our Sexual Readiness Checklist,
I think it’s really important to make sexual choices with these
policies and laws in mind, as well as numerous other considerations.
Anyone will want to be sure that any choice we make in life is one
we’re making where we feel we can live with all the possible
consequences.

Maybe you two were not aware of these restrictions before you made
your choices. Whether you were or were not, you are now, and I think
it’s a good idea to consider them from here on out. For now, let’s set
aside the age of consent issue: I do that because it is simply so
common for those laws to be broken that talking about them in the midst
of this is going to sidetrack too much. In short though, I’d suggest
you, particularly as an adult, abide by those laws.

For now, let’s address the issues of pregnancy risks and presume
we’re talking about a sexual scenario which is within the bounds of the
law.

If your girlfriend does not want to or is not ready to become
pregnant AND give birth OR if she either does not want to or cannot
procure a parent or guardian’s permission should she want an abortion
– given the laws of her state — then at the very least, it’s not very
wise for either of you (or for her, with any partner) to be ditching
birth control methods or using them improperly. Properly condom use
requires a condom being on for all direct genital contact, not just
some.

I want to bring up something I think is important. While you two are
close in age, the fact that you are a legal adult and she is a minor
creates a pretty profound difference between you.
You have agency and rights that she doesn’t have. That means you have
more freedoms, options and choices than she does, which you already did
in the first place because she’s the one who can become pregnant, not
you. The differences that both your sex (being male) and your age
present are things to give some serious thought to in your sexual
choices. She’s more vulnerable than you in many ways, even if in other
respects there are equalities in your relationship. That doesn’t make
you responsible for taking care of her like a parent would, but any
time we have more freedoms than someone else, that tends to mean we
should shoulder more responsibilities, too.

In other words, in a few ways, it’s more on you than her to say, "Hey,
latex is just latex, not the Great Wall of China. I can be just as
close to you with a condom on as without, and also keep anything way
bigger from coming between us, like an infection, a pregnancy or the
crazymaking of a pregnancy scare. I love that you want to be close to
me, but closeness is more about our heads and our hearts than anything
else. So for now, let’s stay smart and safe. You could look into
getting another method of birth control for later, like the pill or
something else, and we can both also go and get tested to be sure
neither of us doesn’t have any infections, so eventually we can go
without condoms if we still want that."
Legally, you ARE the
grownup here, not her (no matter what you or I think about defining
adulthood based on nothing but someone’s age), and so it’s important
that you…well, act like one. Now, ideally, you’d BOTH be bringing
those kind of smarts to the table, so I also think it’s a good idea to
think about if both of you really are ready and able to make smart
choices about sex, including in the heat of the moment, which can be a
challenge sometimes. Even if we are, it’s also our
responsibility — any of us, no matter our age — to choose to only
have sex with partners who are, too. Bear in mind, too, that often we
look to our partners to make our best choices with us, and rely on
partners to give us a reality check when we’re thinking about doing
something stupid, rather than enabling us in it. And many young women
have a tough time being assertive about condoms if their male partners
aren’t on board.

I also want to make sure you know that for many women, abortion
isn’t casual, nor just about having the money or the access to it.
While some women who terminate feel relief and at peace, some women
find abortion to be emotionally difficult or traumatic. For some who
know that parenting or surrendering a child for adoption are not likely
best for them in many respects, they still may feel that abortion isn’t
a choice they want to make or feel good making, either. Being pregnant
is usually a pretty big deal, no matter what choice we make about it
(multiply your own fears and worries right now by about 300 and you can
perhaps see how big a deal), and getting to our best choice isn’t often easy or pat.

If your girlfriend is pregnant, and does decide abortion in her best
choice and the one she wants to make, having someone with her, having
it paid for and being able to have it may be less than she needs: those
are but the bare basics. She may need extra emotional support over
time, she may need help caring for herself afterwards, she may feel
angry with you in some ways or not want you around for a while, she may
find that either a pregnancy and/or an abortion makes her feel
differently about sex than she used to. She may want to take her time
making up her mind, and talk through all of her possible options with
you and/or others. What she wants may be in conflict with what you
want, or she may even decide that she doesn’t want you involved in any
of this at all. These are all things to bear in mind when talking about
abortion for her or, in my book, for any woman when you’re a man.

I am absolutely supportive of male partners doing what they can to
help out, so if you’re here asking me about this after talking with her
about her feelings and what she’d want, and seeking out information
based on what she has voiced, that’s fantastic and very caring. But if
you two haven’t initiated this together, I’d suggest you talk with her
first before doing any more research on her behalf as again, this is her
(potential) pregnancy. And no matter what happens with this scare, I
hope that you’ll give some deep thought to what I have said here about
future sexual choices, initiate discussions with her about them, and
that both of you make wiser choices from here on out which are as
aligned as possible with what you both can handle, what you both want
in the big picture and what really is best for the both of you at this
point in your lives.

Here are a few more links to grow on:

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Heather Corinna on Twitter: @Scarleteen

To schedule an interview with Heather Corinna please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    So what we have here is a seventeen year old girl, engaging in extremly risky sexual behavior at the worst possible time of the month, with an adult because he “doesn’t want anything between them”. It’s way past time for this poor kids to get her parents involved. There is nothing they can do about this abusive situation until they at least know about it. Adoption, abortion and keeping a baby all have consequences and at some point her parents are going to have to help her deal with one of them (assuming she’s even pregnant). This child is going to need her parents’ support no matter what happens and that includes a negative pregnancy test bacause the risk of STD’s is still very real.

  • heather-corinna

    (Just FYI, the OP on this one did follow up with me, and he said his girlfriend did choose to inform her mother.  Which, I agree, is very much a positive, no matter what reproductive consequences do or do not occur from this scenario.)

  • invalid-0

    I’m glad to hear she informed her mother… Hopefully her mother will take her to a clinic and get her checked out for STDs and on a birth control method that works for her!

    • invalid-0

      I’m glad she told her mother too, but I also hope her mother is able to keep her away from the adult who got her into this situation to begin with. That might be a real challenge though. It sounds like this guy’s been able to talk her into some terribly dangerous behavior.

  • http://www.kika.ca invalid-0

    abortion isn’t an option for women who are pregnant. be afraid of what we call the “KARMA”. God may have given you a baby at a very young age but also remember that everything that is happening around us has a reason. a reason to live the life given to us. don’t ever use abortion because this may also put you life in danger lady.

    • invalid-0

      abortion isn’t an option for women who are pregnant.

      I’m not sure where you are from, but in many countries, it IS.

      be afraid of what we call the “KARMA”. God may have given you a baby at a very young age but also remember that everything that is happening around us has a reason.

      Not everyone has the same beliefs as you, including believing in karma or in your god.

      I really don’t see how your religious beliefs pertain to this post at all.

    • invalid-0

      I guess the 80 lb 9 yr old girl from Brazil that was pregnant with twins due to being repeatedly raped by her step-father shouldn’t have had an abortion despite being told by doctors that carrying the twins to term at her age, physical health and weight would have killed her? Her life was in danger simply by becoming pregnant and carrying to term would have killed her. Since when is an embryo (or 2) that isn’t viable without a host more important than the woman carrying it?
      By the way, many women put their lives at risk to simply carry a prenancy to term, how is the risk more important if she has an abortion? Look up maternal mortality, you’ll see what I mean. Here is just one of the links I found listed under maternal mortality.
      http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/80743.php

    • invalid-0

      Some of us don’t believe in your God,or karma being inflicted on women for using the safe and legal choices that are available, one being a safe and LEGAL abortion. Abortion is a valid option in the USA and most other developed countries, so check your FACTS. An unwanted pregnancy is not a punishment for sex outside of marriage that is inflicted only on women, as we have the means to terminate the pregnancy. We have an obligation to educate our young people about birth control as well, so that unintended pregnancies are rare.

    • invalid-0

      ok… well some women have to because they dont have the money to support the baby… and because the parents say that they have to, cause they arent helping. look at it from everyone’s point of view!!

  • invalid-0

    Women have been inducing miscarriage for millenia. About 1/3 of women have had an abortion by age 45. And as for things happening for a reason–that is just deterministic nonsense.

  • heather-corinna

    My impression was not that the girlfriend was talked into anything, just for the record.  By all means, I think there was some obvious collusion here, but given her age (16-17 is the average age for young women in the U.S. to become sexually active), it’s also entirely possible any of this could or would have happened with a same-age partner as well.

     

    Obviously, given my response I still feel the fact that a partner who is a legal adult creates some important differences, but I also always want to make room for the fact that many teen women initiate sex on their own, initiate risky behaviour themselves and also have a will of their own: they’re not puppets.

  • invalid-0

    No, she’s not a puppet, but she is a seventeen year old and this person is nineteen. Maybe she did initiate sex on her own and even initiate the risky behavior but at 17 she’s not as responsible at he is at 19. He’s supposed to be the adult. I know it doesn’t seem like much of an age difference but the line does have to be drawn somewhere. If he was the same age as she was this would be a different story, but he isn’t.

  • invalid-0

    Abortion is really a life and death question for the pregnant?

  • http://www.4children.asia invalid-0

    It is now easy to point with the finger and say she should use other contraceptives like birth control pill. But if I remember myself as a youngster ratio did not worked all time and so it is nearly a wonder that I am not a daddy of a already grown up. What the most important thing is when this happen (pregnant) are parents who know what to do and help these kids as good as possible. It is bad if kids cannot come with their problems to their parents.

  • invalid-0

    For some, yes it is truly a life and death matter. I personally know a woman that had to have an abortion because continuing her pregnancy would have killed her, her blood pressure was over 200/100 and she was at serious risk for a stroke. It was not an easy choice for her, it was a planned pregnancy that she and her husband both wanted but her body could not handle the stress that pregnancy puts on the heart and circulatory system. She did however have a successful pregnancy 3 years later and gave birth to a 8lb 12 oz girl. As I posted before, here is just one of the links I found when googling “maternal mortality”. It does make for an eye opening experience for many who believe that maternal mortality isn’t much of an issue these days in the US.
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/80743.php

  • invalid-0

    Is it hard to go to parents because the problem seems self inflicted?

    • heather-corinna

      There are a number of reasons young people will tend to report not feeling comfortable going to parents with an unplanned pregnancy, or simply not wanting to.

       

      One of them is in alignment with what you’ve said, Anonymous: that it will be seen as something someone did to themselves (or very literally was something someone did to themselves), and not greeted with compassion, support or care.

       

      Others include concerns about being punished, shamed, abused (or abuse of the partner involved), kicked out of the house, forced or pressured into a given reproductive choice or kept from making the choice one wants to, having privacy around the pregnancy invaded, or just plain disappointing parents.

       

      I’d also say that all too often, disclosure to parents around an unplanned pregnancy has something to do with the fact that for too many teens, that discussion will be the first teens have with parents around sex.  Suffice it to say, having that first conversation is tough enough, especially when a teen has to initiate it, but all the more tough given the situation at hand.

  • invalid-0

    I think the person who asked the original question didn’t want a lecture on how they should have talked to their parents and thought everything out ahead of time.

    I think he just wanted to know this: if the girlfriend drove herself to D.C. for an abortion, and he either was a passenger in the car or was following her in another car, would that be illegal?

    I think you gave a long, lecturing answer when what he wanted was a simple yes-or-no answer.

    The fact that he’s one or two years older than her should not matter. Girls often mature more quickly than boys – what girl wants a boyfriend who acts like a little kid?

    I would think that a pro-choice website would respect the rights of these young people to 1) have the relationships they want and 2) get the simple direct information they want. When you scold and preach, you’re not much better than the right-wingers.

    These people are young, not stupid.

  • heather-corinna

    As I mentioned in the comments, I heard back from the OP on this. He was pretty clear it was
    what he wanted, and that he was satisfied with and grateful for the answer.  We then also had more discussion initiated by
    him around all of this on our message boards.  


    Too, often our users tend to report choosing coming to Scarleteen expressly because they want more in-depth answers.  He did not express feeling scolded or preached to.

     

    If we’re going to talk about what people want, and about respecting young people, we need to perhaps stop talking about what we feel they want as third-parties, and listen to what they ask for and respond to themselves.  I by no means feel young people are stupid.  I tend to base how I respond on what I am asked, and then what information around the issue I can give, anticipating additional questions based on how long I’ve been doing this for.  It’s also part of my job to extend education as I can with the aim of bettering people’s lives and sexual relationships, and point out trouble spots when I see them, particularly knowing how some can create negative outcomes. 

     

    I also will often hear back from users again with responses, so I have a tend to have a pretty good idea of what they do and don’t feel works for them. I’ve come to the way I work with them based more on their own feedback and expressed needs all around than anything else.

     

    On the "who wants a boyfriend who acts like a little kid" score?  I think it’s pretty obvious that age doesn’t make someone of any gender more mature, particularly in this context.  And I also think calling same-age teen boys little kids stands pretty counter to you suggesting young people should beviewed with respect.

  • invalid-0

    as i am a parent, i do believe in parental notice laws,you talk about womans rights, but anyone under 18 does not qualify as a woman, i have a 14 year old daughter and i would really get angry if anyone did a medical procedure of any kind on her with out asking my permission. i am responsible for her medical care, not you.

  • heather-corinna

    Not all parents support parental notification laws, just to be clear.  In other words, you say that as you are a parent, you support those laws.  But many other parents do not.

    The age of majority when it comes to sexuality issues and reproductive rights varies from state to state and country to country.  It’s not 18 in all cases or in all areas.

    Ultimately, when it comes to sexual health and minors in the U.S., though, most medical policy doesn’t make your daughter’s sexual healthcare my OR your responsibility, but hers.  Of course, if she comes into the clinic I work at for care then myself, the other staff, the healthcare provider AND she are jointly responsible, and in the state I live in, that would be her right, by law.

    I completely understand a range of feelings around these laws per parents, and when it is safe for young women to do so, and when they will be cared for and supported, I am always in favor of teens notifying parents themselves, which most do, statistically, without it being required by law.  

    The thing is, not all young women will have that safety and support, and other issues around these policies and YA rights notwithstanding, endangering some teens for the sake of the parents of others who are not at risk of harm, abuse, homelessness or having reproductive choices made for them by parents is something I’d hope we can agree is pretty dicey, at best.  

    I personally trust young women (and I do think teen women are women) to know — and figure they know better than you, I or anyone else — when telling parents is or is not safe or best for them.

  • therealistmom

    I do NOT support parental notification laws. While I hope that my lines of communication with my children remain clear enough that she (and later my son as he gets older) will be able to speak with me on sexual issues and especially something as life changing as a pregnancy, I know that it’s not necessarily going to happen in all circumstances. My own mother and I were very close and yet I did not feel I could go to her when faced with a pregnancy at age 15. She did find out and was at my side to take me to the clinic and I thank her to this day for being non-judgmental… disappointed yes but her daughter’s welfare was what she considered paramount. There are young women in many circumstances who have reason to fear going to their parents when faced with an unwanted pregnancy- threats of being thrown on the streets, coerced into choices they may not want (it is no better to force an abortion than it is to force a birth), or the potential for physical and mental abuse. These young women should not have to jump through judicial hoops to obtain reproductive health care of any kind.

  • invalid-0

    When minors make medical decisions without parental consent, are parents released of all (e.g. financial, emotional, etc) subsequent responsibility for the minor?

    • invalid-0

      In each young being entering during an adult life, sits and the new adult person losing with the years a part of emotions ripens: a children’s spontaneity, ability so purely to feel, rejoice and cry on trifles, but getting responsibility, life experience, cynicism, sarcasm and other attributes of the adult. Once in the morning any reasonable creation in the Universe will find out, that it have changed and from a mirror who looks at it that new. At butterflies… It is the new era, the new tendency, from it anywhere you will not get to…

      And here the state tries to lift birth rate, let at first will construct kindergartens, will repair schools, will restore children’s hospitals, will distinguish responsibility of doctors for bribes.