Strategic Initiative: Eliminating Barriers of Parental Involvement Laws and Judicial Bypass

Improving young people’s abortion access.

If/When/How works to ensure that young people can make important decisions about their reproductive wellbeing, including obtaining abortion care. In 38 states, people under the age of 18 who are seeking abortion care are forced to involve their parents or legal guardians. Parental involvement laws require a young person to notify and/or get consent from a parent — or do both — in order to legally make a decision to end their pregnancy. If a young person cannot or chooses not to involve a parent in their decision, they must seek to “bypass” this forced parental involvement with an order from a court. Either way, the choice is not their own — the final word rests either with a parent/legal guardian, or with a judge. This creates considerable barriers to abortion access and can cause significant delays for young people seeking abortion care, especially young people of color and those living in foster care or other state facilities.

Judicial bypass is a complicated procedure that functions differently from state to state and from county to county. It is essential to increase information about and access to judicial bypass so that young people are not foreclosed from making important reproductive decisions for themselves. If/When/How does this through bolstering support for those who assist young people when navigating the process by networking and educating legal professionals, clinic staff, and advocates on the ground. And because many of these laws are ambiguous, cumbersome, and poorly implemented, If/When/How believes that ending forced parental involvement in abortion decision-making through policy change is a key part of ensuring reproductive self-determination for all young people.

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This report summarizes interviews conducted in April and May 2021 with various stakeholders addressing youth access to abortion in Minnesota, including advocates, lawyers, clinicians and other clinic staff, guardians ad litem, and social workers. The clearest thread that emerged involved a critical need to share information about the ways in which Minnesota’s abortion laws harm young people. The obstacles to abortion access described in this report include: court is an intimidating and traumatic experience; logistical barriers bar meaningful access to abortion care for young people; forcing parental involvement does not promote family communication; and judicial bypass does not protect young people. Read more
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Reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates filed suit in state court in Baton Rouge in late July 2021, challenging a Louisiana law that will delay or even preclude abortion access for young people by implementing harmful restrictions that limit young people’s access to the court system. If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice and Lift Louisiana are challenging the restrictions, which were passed in violation of the Louisiana Constitution and standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Read more
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In 38 states, people under the age of 18 who are seeking abortion care are forced to involve their parents or legal guardians. Parental involvement laws require a young person to notify or get consent from a parent — or do both — in order to access clinical abortion care. If a young person cannot or chooses not to involve a parent in their abortion decision, they can ask a court for permission to “bypass” this requirement. Either way, the choice is not their own — the final word rests either with a parent/legal guardian, or with a judge. This creates considerable barriers to abortion access and can cause significant delays for young people seeking abortion care, especially young people of color, LGBTQ young people, and those living in foster care or other state facilities. Download this fact sheet to learn more about how If/When/How is improving young people's abortion access. Read more
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To improve access to abortion care for young people in Florida, courts must provide clear, consistent, accurate, and unbiased information about the judicial waiver process. Our report examines court preparedness in Florida as it pertains to providing information by phone concerning young people's abortion access; researchers found that of Florida’s 67 counties, 11 (16%) were classified as prepared or knowledgeable about the process. Click the link on the left to download the full report and recommendations. Read more
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This Report summarizes themes from the National Judicial Bypass Convening held in April 2018 and organized by If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, with co-sponsors Jane’s Due Process and Advocates for Youth. The Convening brought together over 120 stakeholders — advocates, academics, law students, lawyers, clinicians, and researchers — who work on issues related to young people’s access to abortion, hailing from 37 states and Washington, D.C. This Report captures the unique opportunity to talk to advocates, lawyers, clinicians, and academics who are experts on the judicial bypass. The Convening engaged participants in eight sessions on topics that ranged from messaging about youth pregnancy to clinical challenges in delivering abortion care to appealing court denials of judicial bypass petitions. We hope that this Report provides a productive starting point for anyone working to make abortion care more accessible for young people. Read more
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Stephanie Loraine, a social worker, We Testify abortion storyteller and Board Vice President of the Central Florida Women’s Emergency Fund, offers lessons from her own experience seeking a judicial bypass in Florida for attorneys and advocates who want to assist young people accessing abortion care. Read more
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Erin Quick, a law student at the University of Pennsylvania and member of her school’s If/When/How chapter, where students work on a pro bono project helping young people navigate the judicial bypass process, talks about how law students can get involved helping people who need abortion care, and what keeps her motivated to do the work in a political climate that’s deeply hostile to abortion access. Read more
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Jessica Goldberg, J.D., unpacks how forced parental involvement laws disregard young people’s moral agency and decision-making abilities while placing enormous burdens — undue burdens! — on those who do not want to or cannot involve their parents in their abortion care decisions. Read more
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Blake Rocap works as legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and is a longtime board member at Jane’s Due Process, the Texas legal nonprofit that supports young people who need abortion care in the Lone Star state. We asked Blake to tell us how he got into the work, and how he approaches some of the biggest challenges in the fight to make sure young folks have access to a full spectrum of reproductive health care decisions. Read more
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Access to abortion care has been eroding continuously for decades.But there’s one tack that even very politically savvy abortion rights supporters may be unfamiliar with: Forced parental involvement laws. These regulations force young people under the age of 18 years old to either obtain parental consent, parental notification, or both to seek the abortion care they need.  Read more
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