Parental notification and consent: A study of young women
attending a UK abortion clinic
S. Robotham, L. Lee-Jones, L. Davies
Marie Stopes International, UK
Introduction: Proposed challenges to the current UK law
suggest that young women under 16 years of age should not be permitted to have
an abortion without parental consent.
Aims and Methods: A pre-coded self completion
questionnaire was administered to young women aged 18 years and under. The
research was carried out across nine Maries Stopes International abortion
clinics across the UK. Aims were to determine who young people notified about
abortion and to understand why parents were not informed, if that was the case.
The study also explored views surrounding parental permission as a compulsory
requirement for termination in the under 16s.
Results: Results are presented for the under 16s only.
Approximately half of young women surveyed told their mother and one third told
their father about the abortion. Approximately half told boyfriends and not one
young person told ‘no-one’. Parents who were informed were generally
supportive about the planned abortion. Young women who did not tell their
parents were fearful of a negative reaction such as anger, shame and
disappointment or wanted to keep it private. If forced by law, most young women
report that they would tell their parents in order to seek parental permission
for abortion, however a small minority report that this would have very negative
consequences such as harming themselves or the foetus and being forced to have
an unwanted child at a very young age.
Discussion: Young women, especially those aged under 16
years, are not unsupported in the abortion process. For many young people
support of a parent is important, but others prefer to seek support elsewhere.
Those who do not inform their parents have very valid reasons for not doing so.
A change to the current UK law would create very difficult and unhappy
situations for young women.