1. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to support adolescents’ rights to confidential reproductive care and opposes mandatory reporting laws.
Policy Rundown: Teen pregnancy has significant, longstanding medical, personal, and social consequences affecting both parents and their families. Teenage mothers are less likely to complete school, have higher rates of preterm birth and low birth weight infants, and are more likely to have their male children incarcerated and their female children become teen mothers. As such, timely and protected access to confidential reproductive care, including abortions, is critical to ameliorating these consequences. The AAP continues to encourage teenagers to seek advice from their parents, or another adult, when making decisions with regards to termination of pregnancy, but supports laws that allow teenagers to access these services without required disclosure to parents and guardians. True regard for the best interest of minors argues against mandatory parental consent laws, as there is no evidence that these laws encourage positive outcomes. There is, however, evidence that these laws have negative physical and emotional consequences toward the adolescent. Judicial bypass provisions do not decrease the risk of these negative consequences, and cause delay in seeking abortion, leading to more advanced, complicated procedures and emotional strain. Parental involvement can lead to emotional and financial support, and adolescents can benefit from adult experience and wisdom when making family planning decisions. As such, the AAP encourages professionals to support adolescent disclosure to at least 1 adult whom they identify as trustworthy. Respect for the adolescents’ perspectives will increase the likelihood that they will involve family members. This is especially critical for very young adolescents, and abuse or incest must be considered when a younger adolescent resists parental involvement. Ultimately, the approach most consistent with ethical, legal and healthcare principles is to respect the decision-related rights of the pregnant teenager.
Relevant Reading: Born unwanted: mental health costs and consequences
Image: CC photo cropped and resized/Flickr/Petra Bensted
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