Planned Parenthood: Keep Parents in the Dark About Teen’s Abortion

Opinion   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 16, 2012   |   11:00AM   |   Washington, DC

In Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s Fiscal Year 2011 report, it boasts as one of its achievements for the year “actively work[ing] against…[a bill] requiring parental consent for a minor to receive abortion care.” [i] This Planned Parenthood affiliate’s opposition to a proposed parental involvement law is far from unique.

Planned Parenthood routinely opposes parental involvement legislation,[ii] and initiates legal challenges to newly enacted laws.[iii]

This contempt for laws supported by the vast majority of Americans, along with the fact that some Planned Parenthood affiliates have exhibited a pattern of violating and circumventing these laws once they are enacted,[iv] call into question whether Planned Parenthood truly is the “defender” of women and families that it so-publicly holds itself out to be.

Planned Parenthood’s actions are stunning, given that parental consent laws—laws that protect the health and well-being of minors, respect parental rights, and save the lives of unborn babies—have a 71 percent nationwide approval rating.[v] In fact, 39 states currently have enforceable parental involvement laws.

Efforts to bolster parental involvement requirements saw a rebirth in 2011. At least 24 states considered one or more measures to enact new, or to strengthen existing, parental consent or notification requirements. Six of these states were successful,[vi] and at least one additional state will have a parental notice law on the ballot in November 2012.[vii]

Why do the majority of Americans support parental involvement laws?

  • Parents usually possess information essential to a physician’s exercise of his or her best medical judgment concerning the minor child.
  • The medical, emotional, and psychological consequences of abortion are often serious and can be lasting, particularly when the patient is immature.[viii]
  • Parents who are aware that their daughter has had an abortion may better ensure the best post-abortion medical care.
  • Girls who obtain “secret” abortions often do so at the behest of the older men who impregnated them, and then return to abusive situations. News stories frequently reveal yet another teen who has been sexually abused by a person in authority—a coach, teacher, or someone else.[ix] Daily, teens are taken to abortion clinics without the consent or even the knowledge of their parents.

Quite simply, minor girls are at risk in every state in which parental involvement laws have not been enacted or are easily circumvented.

Fighting Tooth and Nail Against Legislation that Safeguards Minor Girls

As highlighted above, in 2011, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland opposed LB 690, parental consent legislation designed to protect the health and welfare of minor girls in Nebraska.[x] Planned Parenthood of the Heartland testified against LB 690, stating that it “creates potential harm for young women” and that it would be better to stop “putting so much time and energy into the issue of abortion.”[xi] On the contrary, studies demonstrate that parental involvement laws actually decrease the incidence of risky sexual behavior among teenagers [xii] and reduce the teenage demand for abortion.[xiii]

Recently, Planned Parenthood Southeast called efforts to pass laws that protect women and young girls in Mississippi “overwhelmingly anti-woman and anti-family.”[xiv] It lobbied against HB 656, which sought to protect minor girls from being transported across state lines for an abortion without a parent’s consent.[xv]

Additionally, Planned Parenthood’s demonstrated contempt for parental involvement measures violates the letter and spirit of federal regulations.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandates that no applicant may receive Title X funding unless it “certifies to the Secretary that it encourages family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services.”[xvi]

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest recipient of Title X family planning funds, yet it continues to actively oppose the enactment of parental involvement laws, violating an important legislative requirement of Title X.

Litigation – Another Page from Planned Parenthood’s Playbook

Since 1973, Planned Parenthood has challenged parental involvement laws in 21 states.[xvii] These lawsuits are costly for states to defend, and delay or frustrate the enforcement of the protections that minors need and families deserve.

For example, in 2003, the New Hampshire legislature passed the “Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act” (the 2003 Act), which was promptly challenged by Planned Parenthood in federal court and prevented from going into effect.[xviii] The First Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision;[xix] however, in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded the First Circuit’s decision.[xx]

Rather than addressing the constitutional concerns raised by the federal courts legislatively or permitting the lower courts to modify their holdings consistent with the Supreme Court’s direction, however, the New Hampshire legislature and governor John Lynch repealed the 2003 Act.

In 2011, state legislators again introduced a parental notification bill and, after the legislature overrode Governor John Lynch’s veto, the bill became law. Minors are now better protected in New Hampshire in spite of the opposition of their local Planned Parenthood affiliate;[xxi] however, because of Planned Parenthood’s challenge to their 2003 law, that protection was delayed nearly a decade.

To the detriment of minor girls, other states have not been able to achieve New Hampshire’s deferred success. Because of the tactics utilized by Planned Parenthood and others, parental involvement laws are presently in litigation, enjoined, or unenforced in six states.

Law? What Law?

Tragically, because some Planned Parenthood affiliates have violated parental involvement laws, even in states with enforceable laws, minors lack full protection.

Thirteen-year-old “Jane Doe” was a normal, everyday teenage girl, but her life turned into a nightmare when her soccer coach initiated a sexual relationship with her, impregnated her, and took her to a local Ohio Planned Parenthood clinic for an abortion. Ohio had a parental notification law, yet the Planned Parenthood clinic never questioned the soccer coach, who posed over the phone as Jane’s father and then personally paid for her abortion with a credit card. Jane’s parents were neither contacted nor informed.[xxii]

In 2004, the soccer coach was convicted of sexual battery and spent three years in prison despite Planned Parenthood’s apparent efforts to keep the pregnancy and abortion a secret.[xxiii] In December 2010, a state trial court ruled that the Ohio Planned Parenthood clinic violated state law by not abiding by the state’s mandatory 24-hour reflection period before a woman may obtain an abortion.[xxiv][xxv]

“Jane’s” story is not unique. Inexplicably, some Planned Parenthood clinics have shown themselves to be perfect partners to those who wish to sexually abuse and exploit young girls. Planned Parenthood clinics in Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Minnesota, and Virginia, in addition to Ohio, have demonstrated a willingness to violate parental involvement laws.[xxvi] For example, in 2009, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a report stating that Planned Parenthood staff at a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic “failed to obtain parental consent for 9 of 9 minor patients in a manner that complies with state legal requirements.”[xxvii]

In some cases, state officials have initiated investigations into Planned Parenthood clinics and subsequently fined or placed them on probation for failure to comply with applicable state parental involvement laws. For example, in October 2005, Planned Parenthood Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota was fined $50,000 for ignoring Minnesota’s parental notice law.[xxviii]



Planned Parenthood – Not a Friend to Minors

Planned Parenthood and its affiliates do not have the best interests of young women and their unborn children at heart when they fight against, challenge, and break laws designed to: protect minors from the lasting medical, emotional, and psychological consequences of abortion; ensure that parents have information necessary to meet their daughters’ medical needs; and verify that young girls are not having abortions at the behest of older, abusive men.

[i]See (last visited Sept. 22, 2012).

[ii] Parental involvement for abortion includes both parental notice and parental consent requirements.

[iii] See The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood, Appendix XII (Americans United for Life 2011), available at (last visited Sept. 20, 2012). A few examples include: Planned Parenthood of Alaska v. Campbell, 232 P.3d 725 (Alaska 2010) (challenging Alaska’s parental notice law); Planned Parenthood of Kan. & Mid-Mo., Inc. v. Nixon, 220 S.W.3d 732 (Mo. 2007) (challenging Missouri’s parental consent law); Planned Parenthood Fed’n, Inc. v. Schweiker, 559 F. Supp. 658 (D. D.C. 1983) (challenging HHS regulations on parental notice).

[iv] See The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood, supra at p. 18.

[v] Lydia Saad, Common State Abortion Restrictions Spark Mixed Reviews, Gallup, July 25, 2011, (last visited Sept. 20, 2012).

[vi] See generally, Defending Life 2012: Building a Culture of Life, Deconstructing the Abortion Industry, available at (last visited Oct. 11, 2012).

[vii] See Montana Secretary of State, 2012 Ballot Issues, available at (last visited Oct. 11, 2012).

[viii] H.L. v. Matheson, 450 U.S. 398, 411 (1981).

[ix] Unfortunately, sexual abuse is “vastly underreported.” In fact, nearly 88 percent of sexual abuse is never reported—let alone prosecuted. Many experts refer to sexual violence and date/acquaintance rape as a “hidden” or “silent” epidemic because of the high rates of occurrence and its infrequent disclosure. Yet studies reveal that at least one in five girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. Some researchers estimate even higher numbers. See National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions [“NACHRI”], Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet (2004); E.M. Saewyc et al., Teenage Pregnancy and Associated Risk Behaviors Among Sexually Abused Adolescents, Persp. on Sexual & Reprod. Health 936(3):8, 99 (May/June 2004); Stop It Now, Commonly Asked Questions: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Child Sexual Abuse (2005) (citing R.F. Hanson et al., Factors Related to the Reporting of Childhood Sexual Assault, Child Abuse & Neglect 23:559, 559-69 (1999)); C.E. Irwin & V.I. Rickert, Editorial: Coercive Sexual Experiences During Adolescence and Young Adulthood: A Public Health Problem, 36 J. Adoles. Health 359 (2005); V.I. Rickert et al., Disclosure of Date/Acquaintance Rape: Who Reports and When, 18 J. Ped. Adoles. Gyn. 17 (2005).

[x] LB 690 (2011), available at (last visited Sept. 20, 2012).

[xi] See Transcript Prepared By the Clerk of the Legislature, Judiciary Committee (March 09, 2011).

[xii] Jonathan Klick & Thomas Stratmann, Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 24 (1) J.L. Econ. & Org 2-21(2008).

[xiii] Haas-Wilson, The Impact of State Abortion Restrictions on Minors’ Demand for Abortions, 31(1) J. HUMAN RES. 140, 155 (1996); Haas-Wilson, The economic impact of state restrictions on abortion: Parental consent and notification laws and Medicaid funding restrictions, 12(3) J. POL’Y ANALYSIS & MGMT. 498, 509 (1993); Donovan, Judging teenagers: How minors fare when they seek court authorized abortions, 15(6) FAMILY PLANNING PERSP. 259 (1983); Blank et al., State Abortion Rates: The Impact of Policies, Providers, Politics, Demographics, and Economic Environment, 15 J. HEALTH ECON. 513 (1996); Ohsfeldt & Gohmann, Do Parental Involvement Laws Reduce Adolescent Abortion Rates?, 12(2) CONTEMP. ECON. POL’Y 65 (1994).

[xiv] See Planned Parenthood Southeast, MS Legislative Update (Apr. 21, 2011), available at (last visited Sept. 20, 2012).

[xv] Id.

[xvi] See U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., Office of Population Affairs, Legislative Mandates, available at islative/index.html (last visited Sept. 20, 2012).

[xvii] See The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood, Appendix XII, supra.

[xviii] See Planned Parenthood v. Heed (Heed I), 296 F. Supp. 2d 59 (D. NH. 2003).

[xix] See Planned Parenthood v. Heed (Heed II), 390 F.3d 53 (1st Cir. 2004).

[xx] 546 U.S. 320 (2006).

[xxi] See Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, News Source (2011/Fall, Winter) (“The 2011 legislative session offered setbacks for reproductive and sexual health care. . . . Republican leadership in the House and Senate advanced parental notification”). available at (last visited Sept. 20, 2012).

[xxii] Facts related to this story can be found in court documents as well as in AUL’s amicus curiae brief in the case. See Brief of Amici Curiae Members of the U.S. Congress, Roe v. Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, No. 07-1832 (Ohio 2008).

[xxiii] Id.

[xxiv] Id.

[xxv] The issue of whether Planned Parenthood violated state law by not informing the parents of the planned abortion or obtaining their consent was recently confidentially resolved and therefore the case was dismissed. See Ohio Lawsuit Over Teen Abortion Resolved, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Apr. 28, 2011, available at In addition, the minor’s pregnancy and soccer coach’s involvement in her abortion should have incited Planned Parenthood’s employees— mandatory reporters under Ohio law—to report her sexual abuse/statutory rape to the proper authorities, but Planned Parenthood allegedly failed to do so.

[xxvi] See The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood, Appendix XIII, supra.

[xxvii] See Alabama Dep’t of Public Health, Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction (Oct. 15, 2009), available at (last visited Sept. 20, 2012).

[xxviii] Prather, Judge Faults St. Paul Clinic in Abortion Lawsuit, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS A1 (Oct. 2005). Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota receives money from the United States Department of Health and Human Services and from Title X. See PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF MINNESOTA/NORTH DAKOTA/SOUTH DAKOTA, 2009 ANNUAL REPORT (2009), available at (last visited Sept. 20, 2012).

LifeNews Note: Americans United for Life (AUL) is a nonprofit, public-interest law and policy organization whose vision is a nation in which everyone is welcomed in life and protected in law.