In 2005, Arkansas changed its parental notification requirement for minors seeking an abortion to a parental consent law, under which a minor can obtain an abortion without consent after obtaining a judicial waiver.
Using state health department data on 7,463 abortions among 15–19-year-olds over the period 2001–2007, an analysis of abortion and second-trimester abortion rates among Arkansas minors relative to rates among older teenagers evaluated the influence of the 2005 change in the law. Linear and logistic regression analyses estimated the changes in rates among different age-groups, and assessed the likelihood of minors' using the bypass procedure or having a second-trimester abortion.
No association was found between the change in the law and either the abortion rate or the second-trimester abortion rate among minors in the state. Ten percent of all abortions among minors were obtained through the judicial bypass procedure, and minors aged 15 or younger who had an abortion were less likely than those aged 17 to get a waiver (odds ratio, 0.2). Minors who used the bypass option were less likely than those who obtained parental consent to have a second-trimester abortion (0.5), and they terminated the pregnancy 1.1 weeks earlier, on average, than did minors who had gotten such consent.
States that convert a parental notification statute to a parental consent statute are unlikely to experience a decrease in abortions among minors.
Ted Joyce is professor, Department of Economics and Finance, Baruch College, City University of New York; academic director, Baruch College/ Mount Sinai School of Medicine Graduate Program in Health Care Administration, New York; and research associate, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA.