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Can My Underage Daughter Get an

Abortion Without Me Knowing?

By Amy A. Edwards

This question is equivalent to asking whether your underage daughter has the right to consent to an abortion independently of parents. Nothing in the law is absolute. The answer to this question is maybe yes, and maybe no. In North Carolina, the law on abortion is the Woman’s Right to Know Act, which defines it as:

“The use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or other substance or device intentionally to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant.” Termination is lawful to “preserve the life or health of the child” or to “remove a dead, unborn child who died as the result of . . . natural causes . . . accidental trauma, or . . . a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or her unborn child which causes the premature termination of the pregnancy.” Abortion is legal during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Information and Consent of the Female

A medical professional must get any woman’s voluntary and informed consent, whether she is a minor (under 18) or an adult, at least 3 days before an abortion. The professional must provide information on a number of topics to her, including information about the medical risks of both an abortion and carrying a child to term, resources and available options, including adoption, public assistance for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care. She is also informed that “the father is liable to assist in the support of the child, even if the father has offered to pay for the abortion.” The law requires the state to create and maintain a web site of the information.

Although there is not a certain age when a minor is capable of giving consent to an abortion, she must have the legal capacity to understand her health status and options, and be able to make decisions about them. For example, if a girl is 15 years old, does she truly understand the real consequences of being pregnant, let alone those of having an abortion? A pregnant minor cannot be forced to have an abortion.

Adult Consent

In the more general statutes, a minor who is not emancipated has the right to consent to certain medical treatment without a parent’s consent. Any minor may give effective consent to “medical health services for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of . . . venereal disease . . . pregnancy . . . This section does not authorize the inducing of an abortion [or the] performance of a sterilization operation.” Pregnant minors who want an abortion must have the written consent of a parent with custody, her legal guardian or custodian, a parent who lives with her, or a grandparent she has lived with for at least 6 months.

Minors and the Consent of a Judge

If a pregnant minor chooses to do so, she can attempt to bypass the adult’s consent and petition the court. She may petition over the objection of the adult. “At the hearing, the court shall hear evidence relating to the emotional development, maturity, intellect, and understanding of the minor; the nature, possible consequences, and alternatives to the abortion; and any other evidence that the court may find useful in determining whether the parental consent requirement shall be waived.” These records are sealed by the court.

Cites in sequence: NC Gen. Stat. §90-21.81, §14-45.1, §90-21.82(c), §90-21.5, §90-21.7, §90-21.8, §7B-2901(d)

Amy A. Edwards is a family law attorney in Greenville, NC, certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist, and is licensed only in NC. Laws change. This article is current as of 2018. www.AmyEdwardsFamilyLaw.com© 2018.

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