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Massachusetts

Restrictions on Young Women's Access to Abortion

Massachusetts law restricts young women's access to abortion.

Is the law enforceable?  Yes, although a state court held that the two-parent requirement is unconstitutional and unenforceable under the due-process provisions of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights as an unjustified burden on a young woman's right to choose.  The court issued an order that the law be construed to require the consent of only one parent.  Planned Parenthood League of Mass., Inc. v. Attorney General, 677 N.E.2d 101 (Mass. 1997).

Who is considered a minor?  A young woman under the age of 18 and not married.

What is required - parental consent or parental notice?  Consent.

Who must provide consent?  Pursuant to a court's decision, one parent.  (As written, two parents).

Are there other trusted adults who may provide consent instead?  No.

What is the process for obtaining consent?  As written, a young woman may not obtain an abortion unless the attending physician secures the written consent of both parents.  However, consent of one parent is sufficient if one of the young woman's parents has died or is unavailable.  Consent of the custodial parent is sufficient if her parents are divorced.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of rape or incest?  No.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of child abuse?  No.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman's health is threatened?  Yes.  A doctor may provide an abortion without the young woman's parents' consent "in an emergency requiring immediate action."

May the parental mandate be waived under any other circumstances?  Yes, the young woman may try to obtain permission from a judge.

If a young woman must obtain permission from a judge, what is the process?  She must secure a court order stating either that she is mature and capable of giving informed consent or that an abortion is in her best interests.

Are there other significant requirements under the law?  No.

Has a court considered the constitutionality of this law?  Yes.  A court has ruled that the two-parent requirement is unconstitutional under the State Declaration of Rights and issued an order that the law be construed to require the consent of only one parent.  Planned Parenthood League of Mass., Inc. v. Attorney General, 677 N.E.2d 101 (Mass. 1997).

Other information about the law:  None.

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 112, § 12S (Enacted 1974; Last Amended 1980).

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