Who Should Consent to a Minor's Abortion?

Parental consent for abortion is not mandatory for minors in Saskatchewan. Teen girls can have an abortion performed without notifying anyone, and they are then left alone to deal with the physical and emotional consequences.  One common argument that prevents society from improving care for pregnant teens is that no one should be able to consent, or withhold consent, on someone else's behalf. Whether the woman in question is 33 or 13, the "her body, her choice" rhetoric is alive and well.

It is important to consider what this argument says in relation to minors. "Her choice" may sound supportive, but is it really? Does a young teen want to be left to make such a choice alone? Would she choose to carry such a secret, choose to have no one to turn to for support? Would her choice really be a choice if she felt there was only one option?  

Person, shown from waste to mid calf, sitting on exam table wearing a hospital gown.

We all want what is in a minors' best interests. Yet some argue a parent or guardian should not be involved when their daughter has an unplanned pregnancy. Why is it, at a time when a young teen has to make an irreversible decision, we think that anyone but the parents should be deciding what is in her best interests?  Who, if not parents or guardians, can genuinely protect the best interests of our children?  Doctors? Governments or courts? The teens themselves?  

Doctors are well educated in the physical realities of abortion. In this way, they are well-positioned to inform girls about the procedure, as well as other options. They are not, however, in a position to offer counselling and emotional support to anxious girls, nor should we ask them to be. The reality is, for a teen in a vulnerable position, doctors can be intimidating and their opinions overwhelming. 

Perhaps the government could objectively determine the benefits of an abortion for a particular individual.  Even in the unlikely event that they could, this would take away a long-recognized legal right to parental authority. Parents would be deemed secondary authorities, while the government usurped their responsibility.  If this was acceptable when deciding who should have an abortion, why not in deciding who should be allowed to have kids at all? Why not in deciding where your children should be educated? State control over the nation's children can never be the answer. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what about the teen herself? Many teens are as mature emotionally as they are physically. Should these young women not have a voice? Indeed, they should. However, their voice should not be the only one they hear. Science is clear that the teenage brain is still developing, particularly the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain which allows for future planning and decision-making. The adult brain has a deeper capacity for this kind of thought, making adults a better choice than peers when grappling with such an impactful decision as abortion.  In addition, adults can offer resources. These resources are not only financial, but also resources such as a drivers' license and vehicle to get to doctors' appointments, time they are willing to give to babysit a child that could be born, support they are willing to give to their new grandchild, and access to follow-up care post-abortion or post-partum. A parental consent law recognizes the value of adult support and involvement in a teen's pregnancy, as well as recognizing parental authority and responsibility. 

Parents and guardians, then, are really the only option when it comes to consent for minors to have an abortion, just as parents are the ones who need to consent to a teen getting a tattoo, using a tanning salon, or even going on a field trip from school.

What about parents who are incapable of making good decisions, or whose relationship with their children is strained, or worse, abusive? This is a legitimate concern when requiring parental consent. But does that mean we should strip all parents of their rights for the sake of those few who may be inept? Certainly not. What it means is that we build safeguards into the law, where teens have the option of bypassing parental consent with good reason. In these cases, be it of abuse, incest, or fear of reprisal, we can allow doctors, government, or courts to step in and assist an adolescent in making a good medical decision.  Parental consent should be the standard to which exceptions are made, not the exception itself. 

Parental Consent For Abortion Should Be On Every Parents' Agenda

A story out of New Zealand recently told of a school nurse booking a student for an abortion, driving her there during school hours, bringing her home late, and lying about why they were late.  Weeks later, as the girl deteriorated emotionally and physically, it came out that she had received an abortion that day. The surgery damaged her uterus and she will now never be able to have a baby.

Any parent reading this story can relate to the outrage of a mother having a school employee go behind her back to encourage her 15-year-old daughter to get life-changing surgery in secret.  As it turns out, the school did not have to notify the parents because New Zealand has no requirement of parental consent for a minor to have an abortion. The school nurse could legally leave a mother wondering where on earth her teenage daughter was when she didn’t come off the school bus in the afternoon.

The fact that underage girls in Canada can get an abortion without parental consent or notification means stories like this can happen here too. Supporters of secret underage abortions argue points like access to health care, doctor-patient confidentiality, and negative family relationships.  But what it really comes down to is a lack of respect for parental authority. Parents are no longer trusted to have the best interests of their children in mind.

Parents need to stand up for their right to protect and guide their children. No one should encourage your children to make major life decisions in isolation, or counsel them to hide things from you. and the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association are lobbying for a parental consent for abortion law in Saskatchewan, a law that should be in place in every Canadian province. This campaign,, received a legal opinion on parental consent that makes it even clearer that the best interests of children are in no way served, or enhanced, by undermining parental authority and responsibility.

One of the key findings of from our legal opinion is that parents are ultimately responsible for the care and guidance of their children. Under the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, parents have primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their children, with the best interests of the child being their primary concern. Article 18 indicates that this “best interests” measure includes taking into account a child’s maturity and capacity for decision-making; it does not, however, preclude parental involvement with more mature minors.

Another of the key findings is that medical codes of ethics should not be considered satisfactory on the issue of abortion. These codes should follow statutory guidelines, not the other way around. Allowing the medical profession to make its own rules is an example of a weak or lazy government unwilling to do its Parliamentary duty.

Parents are involved in virtually all other medical decisions, and may have valuable information about a child’s medical history as well as family medical history. Doctors, school nurses, or private abortion clinic employees should not play counselor and parent to teens in crisis.

The fact that a school needs permission to take your child on a field trip, but not for surgery, is beyond ridiculous. That same teen needs parental consent before getting a tattoo or using a tanning salon, and needs official consent before being legally allowed to drink, smoke, or drive a car. Has abortion really become such a taboo subject that we are willing to just ignore all legal oversights rather than face the wrath of abortion advocates?

Undermining parental authority undermines the best interests of children and tells parents they don’t need to be involved in their children’s lives. If someone else can take my child for surgery and I only find out about it later, they can expect to hear from me. I expect they’d hear from you too.

This article is also published on

Parental Consent for Abortion Reconciled with the Mature Minor

"Neither the mature minor doctrine, nor medical ethical guidelines, nor health and safety concerns are sufficient to justify rejecting a parental consent law for abortion.  Parental consent takes into account the best interests of the child and her increasing maturity, thus respecting the mature minor doctrine.

Medical ethics supports family involvement in healthcare decision making and is fully capable of operating in a statutory environment that includes a parental consent law.  Confidentiality is not breached by such a law, and the health and safety of pregnant women is protected further by involving parents, the primary caregivers who are responsible for ensuring her well-being. Rather than justifying rejection of a parental consent law, these factors point to the ease of integration, the importance of, and the benefits to implementing a parental consent law for abortion."

To read the full legal opinion on how parental consent does not conflict with the decision-making rights of mature minors, click the attachment link to download the full article.


Download this file (Parental Consent Reconciled with the Mature Minor (Position Paper).pdf)Parental Consent & the Mature Minor[Parental consent does not infringe the rights of minors.]509 kB

Parental Consent for Abortion Protects Vulnerable Girls

Many choice-focused individuals and organizations take a fundamentally flawed approach to the issue of parental consent for abortion. They frame the problem as, “Choice and bodily autonomy at all costs and anyone who opposes that opposes women’s rights.”  We argue that this “at all costs” approach harms the very women it sets out to protect when it is applied to adolescents making decisions on whether to continue a pregnancy. 

If we ask, “What harms will occur from a Parental Consent law?” we will certainly be able to find potential harms.  And these harms should not be negated: patient confidentiality, access to healthcare, possibility of abuse or broken family relationships - all these are serious issues that need to be taken into consideration.  When the question is a more objective, “Should we implement a parental consent for abortion law?” these carefully considered cons cannot be found to outweigh the pros.  Unfortunately, the pro-choice approach fails to reasonably consider the possible pros to such legislation. The substantial research supporting the implementation of a parental consent for abortion law is summarized here.

To read the rest of our position paper titled, "Parental Consent for Abortion Protects Vulnerable Girls" please download the attachment below. 


Download this file (PositionPaper-ParentalConsent.pdf)PositionPaper-ParentalConsent.pdf[ ]156 kB


This public awareness campaign is a joint effort between Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association and For more information please contact us here.

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