Situation 1: Yolanda is 17 years old and six weeks pregnant. She would like to have an abortion, but the clinic is requiring her to notify at least one of her parents.
Question: Is Yolanda required to notify one of her parents before she can get an abortion?
Answer: Yes, but there are exceptions. The clinic must notify at least one of the minor’s parents before providing abortion care because of the Maryland Parental Notification for Abortion Law. The law does not require that a parent or legal guardian give permission (consent) for the abortion – just to be notified before the care is received. Md. Code Ann., Health–Gen. § 20-103 (a). If notification cannot be done in-person at the clinic, notification can be done by certified letter with restricted delivery. Restricted delivery means that the letter can only be delivered to the person the letter is addressed to. However, the notification does not have to occur if Yolanda feels it is not in her best interest to have her parents involved (see scenario below). This restriction does not apply to minors who are married or are legally emancipated.
Situation 2: Maria is 16 years old and five weeks pregnant. She would like to have an abortion, but she cannot tell her parents because she lives in an abusive household.
Question: Is there any way that Maria can have the abortion without telling her parents?
Answer: Yes! The medical professional providing the abortion care does not have to notify her parents if, in their judgement:
- The pregnant minor is mature and capable of giving her informed consent to the procedure, OR
- Notification would not be in the minor’s best interest, OR
- Notification may lead to physical or emotional abuse of the minor, OR
- The minor does not live with her parent(s) or legal guardian(s), and a reasonable effort to give notice by registered mail has been attempted.
For some pregnant teens, telling a parent or guardian of a decision to have an abortion can cause abuse, homelessness, or abandonment. If a minor is unable or unwilling to tell her parent or legal guardian about her decision to have an abortion, the medical professional providing the abortion care can bypass the requirement of telling her parents, but only if it would not be in her best interest for them to be notified. Md. Code Ann., Health–Gen. § 20-103 (c)(iii)
Youth under 18 years of age are allowed by law to consent to an abortion on their own. The decision to have an abortion is the minor’s alone to make. Even if a parent or legal guardian takes the youth to the clinic, the medical professional will not provide the abortion care unless the minor gives consent. The patient is the only one who can consent to the abortion. In re Smith, 16 Md.App. 209 (1972).