Parental Notification

Care of Children Act 2004

38 Consent to abortion

(1) If given by a female child (of whatever age), the following have the same effect as if she were of full age:

(a) a consent to the carrying out on her of any medical or surgical procedure for the purpose of terminating her pregnancy by a person professionally qualified to carry it out; and

(b) a refusal to consent to the carrying out on her of any procedure of that kind.

This section permits a minor to consent or refuse consent to an abortion just as if they were legally of age. This makes a lot of sense.

The vast majority of teens who become pregnant tell their parents and rely on their love and support. A small minority of teens have parents who would not be loving or supportive. In order to avoid placing further barriers between those disadvantaged teens and the care they need, Parliament decided to give all teens the right to consent to or refuse abortion without notifying their parents, whether they need to use that right or not.

Studies have shown teens in US states with parental notification laws choose to forego medical care rather than face their parents. Other studies have shown teens are accurate predictors of whether or not their parents are safe people to tell about their unwanted pregnancies.

Parental notification laws often include a safety valve, a legal process through which a teen can get around notification in her own case. Considering how much tenacity and fortitude it takes an adult to navigate the court system, it seems safe to say such a process would be beyond the capacities of the teens who arguably need it most. Resourceful teens could access the process, and those who found it most daunting would become parents.

The Kieft Petition

In 2015 Hillary Kieft presented a petition to Parliament asking the law be changed to require parental notification for under-16s who sought abortion. The petition was signed by herself and six members of her family.

The Justice and Electoral Select Committee held about a dozen public hearings and many private hearings about Kieft’s petition.

In the end, they did not recommend any changes to the Care of Children Act 2004.

Hillary Kieft said her daughter’s school arranged for her to have an abortion without her knowledge. She said she only found out after her daughter attempted suicide. Ms Kieft said she has not brought her complaint to the Health and Disability Commission for investigation.

ALRANZ believes changing the Care of Children Act  2004 to require parental notification would further disadvantage teens who are already dealing with too much hardship in their lives

The law is capable of requiring parental notification in case of abortion, but not in the case of a teen who wants to carry a pregnancy to term. Such a law would be discriminatory on the basis of that choice.

Such a law change would place the supposed interests of parents above the interests of teens in a way that seems likely to harm the teens over the short and long terms.

For more on ALRANZ’s views, see this article and this blog post.