Do I have to tell my parents if I want an abortion?

March 14, 2013

Yes and No.  In a nutshell, it depends on whether they are in agreement and you bring them to your abortion appointment, or if they are properly given “parental notification” in advance of your abortion, or if you bypass the consent and notification options and proceed with a request to a juvenile court for a waiver of any notice, or if you have a medical emergency that requires an immediate abortion.

If you are under 18 years of age and “unemancipated”, Georgia’s parental notification of abortion statutes will apply.   Under the relatively new juvenile code effective January 1, 2014, these are found at O.C.G.A. §§ 15-11-680 through 15-11-688.   “Unemancipated” in this instance means that you are under 18, are not married or have not been married and are under  the care, custody and control of your parent(s), guardian or the juvenile court.  While the statutes deal with the type of notice that your abortion provider must give your parent, they obviously impact your choices.

Here is how the statutes work:

  • You must either be accompanied by your parent/guardian to the abortion; OR
  • Your doctor’s office has to give 24 hours’ advance phone notification to your parent or guardian of the time & place of the abortion; OR
  • Your doctor’s office has to give advance notice to your parent or guardian of the time & place of the abortion by certified mail, return receipt requested, to their usual residence, and, unless you can establish delivery was sooner than 48 hours after mailing, then you have to wait those 48 hours and another 24 hours before you can have an abortion.

There are exceptions:

  1. A medical emergency exists that so complicates your health condition that an immediate abortion is required; OR
  2. If your doctor’s office phones your parent/guardian and s/he says that s/he has been previously informed that you were seeking an abortion OR that s/he does not wish to consult with you about having an abortion, then you can have an abortion without any further delays than usual (see below); OR
  3. If your doctor’s office sends the certified mail parental notification and your parent/guardian certifies in writing that s/he has been previously informed that you were seeking an abortion OR that s/he does not wish to consult with you about having an abortion, then you can have an abortion without any further delays than usual (*see below); OR
  4. You can petition the juvenile court on your own or by “next friend” for a waiver of the parental notification and you will have to show that you are mature enough and well enough informed to make the abortion decision in consultation with your doctor, independently of your parent/guardian’s wishes OR that notice to your parent/guardian would not be in your best interests.  Under the waiver option, the juvenile court is supposed to help you or your “next friend” with the paperwork, you are entitled to court-appointed counsel at no cost and you are allowed to file your petition in the juvenile court in any county in Georgia and you do not have to be a Georgia resident so long as you are present in Georgia when you file it.

A hearing on your petition for a waiver of the notice provisions must take place within three days of filing, not counting Saturdays, Sundays or holidays, and if the court doesn’t hear your petition within this time frame, your petition is considered granted, and you can get an abortion without any further delays than usual (*see below).   Also, if the court hears your petition but fails to issue a ruling within 24 hours of the hearing, your petition is considered granted and you can get an abortion without any further delays than usual (*see below).  Appeals are given fast-track (“expedited”) treatment, and it may be possible for you to file a new petition in a more sympathetic county if you are denied a waiver by the first juvenile court.

Violating the parental notification statutes is a misdemeanor, and this includes encouraging someone to provide false information – so, you cannot bring a sympathetic adult as your “parent or guardian” without both of you risking misdemeanor convictions.

*Once you clear these parental notification/waiver hurdles, then you will just be treated like any adult female who wishes to have an abortion in Georgia.  This will include having to listen to a doctor tell you how old the fetus likely is,  the medical risks to you of carrying the fetus to full term, the medical risks to you of getting an abortion, and to a recording of your doctor tell you that you might be able to get free prenatal, delivery and neonatal care, that the father of the child would be required to pay child support, that there are places where you can get a free ultrasound, and that you have the right to review certain materials on a state website which includes information about fetal pain; in addition, if you are given an ultrasound you must be offered the opportunity to view the sonogram and listen to fetal heartbeat.