Background

The ability of people younger than 18 (generally, the legal definition of a minor) to consent to a range of sensitive health care services—including sexual and reproductive health care, mental health services, and alcohol and drug abuse treatment—has expanded dramatically over the past several decades. This trend reflects the recognition that, while involving parents or guardians in young people’s health care decisions is desirable, many young people will not avail themselves of important services if they are forced to involve their parents. With regard to sexual and reproductive health care, many states explicitly permit all or some people younger than 18 to obtain contraceptive, prenatal and STI services without parental involvement. Moreover, nearly every state permits parents younger than 18 to make important decisions regarding their children. In sharp contrast, a majority of states require parental involvement before a legal minor can obtain an abortion.

Notably for access to contraceptives for those younger than 18, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically affirmed their right to access contraceptives in the 1977 decision Carey v. Population Services International. No state has enacted a blanket requirement that individuals must obtain parental consent for contraceptive services. For laws related to HIV and other STI services, pregnancy care, adoption or medical care for a child, state consent laws apply to all individuals aged 12 through 17. In some cases, however, states allow only certain groups of young people—such as those who are married, pregnant or already parents—to consent. Several states have no relevant policy or case law; in these states, physicians commonly provide medical care without parental consent to individuals younger than 18 they deem mature, particularly if the state allows minors to consent to related services. The following chart tracks seven areas in which state laws can affect a young person’s right to consent. For further information on each issue, click on the column heading.

Further information on these issues can be obtained by clicking on the column headings.

Highlights

 

STI services:

 

Prenatal care:

 

Adoption:

 

Medical care for a child:

 

Abortion:

 

People Younger Than 18 May Consent To:

STATE

CONTRACEPTIVE SERVICES

STI SERVICES

PRENATAL CARE

ADOPTION

MEDICAL CARE FOR MINOR'S CHILD

ABORTION SERVICES

Alabama

All†​

All*

All

All

All

Parental Consent

Alaska

All

All

All

 

All

(Parental Notice)

Arizona

All

All

 

All

 

Parental Consent

Arkansas

All

All*

All

 

All

Parental Consent

California

All

All

All

All

 

(Parental Consent)

Colorado

All

All

All

All

All

Parental Notice

Connecticut

Some

All

 

Legal counsel

All

All

Delaware

All*

All*

All*

All

All

Parental Notice‡​

Dist. of Columbia

All

All

All

All

All

All

Florida

Some

All

All

 

All

Parental Notice

Georgia

All

All*

All

All

All

Parental Notice

Hawaii

All*,†​

All*,

All*,

All

 

 

Idaho

All

All

All

All

All

Parental Consent

Illinois

Some

All*

All

All

All

Parental Notice

Indiana

Some

All

 

All

 

Parental Consent

Iowa

All

All

 

 

 

Parental Notice

Kansas

Some

All*

Some

All

All

Parental Consent

Kentucky

All*

All*

All*

Legal counsel

All

Parental Consent

Louisiana

Some

All*

 

Parental consent

All

Parental Consent

Maine

Some

All*

 

 

 

All

Maryland

All*

All*

All*

All

All

Parental Notice

Massachusetts

All

All

All

 

All

Parental Consent

Michigan

Some

All*

All*

Parental consent

All

Parental Consent

Minnesota

All*

All*

All*

Parental consent

All

Parental Notice

Mississippi

Some

All

All

All

All

Parental Consent

Missouri

Some

All*

All*

Legal counsel

All

Parental Consent

Montana

All*

All*

All*

Legal counsel

All

(Parental Consent)

Nebraska

Some

All

 

 

 

Parental Consent

Nevada

Some

All

Some

All

All

(Parental Notice)

New Hampshire

Some

All

Some

AllΩ​

 

Parental Notice

New Jersey

Some†​

All*,β

All*

All

All

(Parental Notice)

New Mexico

All

All

All

All

 

(Parental Consent)

New York

All

All

All

All

All

 

North Carolina

All

All

All

 

 

Parental Consent

North Dakota

 

All

ξ*

All

 

Parental Consent

Ohio

 

All

 

All

 

Parental Consent

Oklahoma

Some

All*

All*

All†​

All

Parental Consent and Notice

Oregon

All*

All

All*,

 

 

 

Pennsylvania

All†​

All

All

Parental notice

All

Parental Consent

Rhode Island

 

All

 

Parental consent

All

Parental Consent

South Carolina

All

All

All

All

All

Parental Consent‡​

South Dakota

Some

All

 

 

 

Parental Notice

Tennessee

All

All

All

All

All

Parental Consent

Texas

Some

All*

All*

 

 

Parental Consent and Notice

Utah

Some

All

All

All

All

Parental Consent and Notice

Vermont

Some

All

 

All

 

 

Virginia

All

All

All

All

All

Parental Consent and Notice

Washington

All

All†​

All

Legal counsel

 

 

West Virginia

Some

All

Some

All

 

Parental Notice

Wisconsin

 

All

 

 

 

Parental Consent

Wyoming

All

All

 

All

 

Parental Consent and Notice

TOTAL

26+DC

50+DC

32+DC

28+DC

30+DC

2+DC

Notes: "All" applies to all individuals or to those at a specified age (such as 12 or 14) and older. “Some” applies to specified categories of young people (those who have a health issue, or are married, pregnant, considered mature). Totals include only those states that allow all individuals to consent.

Permanently enjoined by court order; law not in effect.

*   Physicians may, but are not required to, inform the young person’s parents.

   Applies to individuals 14 and older. Hawaii allows individuals aged 14 and older to consent to STI care and allows all individuals, regardless of age, to consent to HIV/AIDS care.

   Delaware’s abortion law applies to women younger than 16. Oregon’s prenatal care law applies to women at least 15 years old. South Carolina’s abortion law applies to those younger than 17.

Ω  A court may require parental consent.

β   New Jersey allows all individuals, regardless of age, to consent to STI care and allows individuals aged 13 or older to consent to HIV/AIDS care.

ξ   Individuals younger than 18 may consent to prenatal care in the first trimester and the first visit after the first trimester. Parental consent required for all other visits.