Progressives Fight To Protect N.J.’s Minors’ Reproductive Health

Lawmakers Attempt to force Parental Notification Heightens Risk for Most Vulnerable

The New Jersey Legislature is attempting to turn back the clock on reproductive rights for women. When the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that parental notification laws were unconstitutional, state lawmakers decided to change the state’s constitution. Representatives from progressive organizations across the state have decried the New Jersey legislature’s attempt to bypass the Supreme Court ruling and pass an amendment to make parental notification laws a permanent part of the state’s constitution.

The proposed amendment has passed the Assembly, is currently in the Senate, and could be on a statewide ballot as soon as November. Opponents of the amendment fear that it will endanger the health of teenagers in the state by denying young women safe legal abortions. The amendment also clears the way for restrictive parental notification requirements for birth control services, prenatal care or any other pregnancy related services. The language could also permit the legislature to require parental notification for any other "medical or surgical procedure or treatment relating to pregnancy."

"There are so many reasons a young girl might not be able to communicate with her parents about reproductive issues," said Roberta Cooper, Deputy Director of People For the American Way’s Northeast office. "This could force New Jersey’s most vulnerable young women to look for abortions from an unregulated or untrained providers. Opening the door to unsafe and deadly abortions is the wrong direction for New Jersey."

Parental notification laws concern opponents because they often prevent young women from obtaining safe abortions – returning the teens to a deadly time before abortions were legally available in clinics around the country. The amendment also has the potential to inhibit teens from seeking safe medical care early on in their pregnancy, especially if there is a family history of alcoholism, incest or violence. Another issue of concern is that sexually active young women are also less likely to get health care related to their sexual health if they know that providers are required to notify their parents – a serious risk with the rate of infection for AIDS on the rise again. Many states have laws allowing underage mothers to place their children up for adoption without involving their parents, but require parental notification or consent before the young women undergo an abortion, thus providing a coercive standard for pregnant teens. Laws requiring parental notification have the effect of isolating pregnant teens from caring adults who can help them.

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