The legal ability of minors 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 30 years. This trend reflects the recognition that, while parental involvement in minors’ health care decisions is desirable, many minors 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 minors to obtain contraceptive, prenatal and STI services without parental involvement. Moreover, nearly every state permits minor parents to make important decisions on their own regarding their children. In sharp contrast, the majority of states require parental involvement in a minor’s abortion.
In most cases, state consent laws apply to all minors age 12 and older. In some cases, however, states allow only certain groups of minors—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 minors they deem mature, particularly if the state allows minors to consent to related services. The following chart contains seven categories of state law that affect a minor’s right to consent. Further information on these issues can be obtained by clicking on the column headings.
- Contraceptive Services: 26 states and the District of Columbia allow all minors (12 and older) to consent to contraceptive services. 20 states allow only certain categories of minors to consent to contraceptive services. 4 states have no relevant policy or case law.
- STI Services: All states and the District of Columbia allow all minors to consent to STI services. 18 of these states allow, but do not require, a physician to inform a minor’s parents that he or she is seeking or receiving STI services when the doctor deems it in the minor’s best interests.
- Prenatal Care: 32 states and the District of Columbia explicitly allow all minors to consent to prenatal care. Another state allows a minor to consent to prenatal care during the 1st trimester; requires parental consent for most care during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. 13 of these states allow, but do not require, a physician to inform parents that their minor daughter is seeking or receiving prenatal care when the doctor deems it in the minor’s best interests. 4 additional states allow a minor who can be considered “mature” to consent. 13 states have no relevant policy or case law.
- Adoption: 28 states and the District of Columbia allow all minor parents to choose to place their child for adoption. In addition, 5 states require the involvement of a parent and 5 states require the involvement of legal counsel. The remaining 12 states have no relevant policy or case law.
- Medical Care for a Child: 30 states and the District of Columbia allow all minor parents to consent to medical care for their child. The remaining 20 states have no relevant explicit policy or case law.
- Abortion: 2 states and the District of Columbia explicitly allow all minors to consent to abortion services. 21 states require that at least one parent consent to a minor’s abortion, while 13 states require prior notification of at least one parent. 5 states require both notification of and consent from a parent prior to a minor’s abortion. 6 additional states have parental involvement laws that are temporarily or permanently enjoined. 5 states have no relevant policy or case law.
- United States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Monthly State Policy Updates
Get an overview of state legislative and policy activity in all topics of sexual and reproductive health.