West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a protective bill into law this week that will help to ensure parents know when an underage girl seeks an abortion, the Associated Press reports.
The legislature passed the Parent’s Right to Know Act earlier this month by a strong majority.
West Virginians for Life reports the bill closes a loophole in the state law that allowed a second doctor to wave the requirement and allow a minor girl to have an abortion without a parent’s knowledge.
In 2015, doctors waved the parental notification requirement four times for girls under 18 in the state, the AP reports.
The law still allows a minor to ask a judge to wave the requirement in situations involving abuse, according to the group. Unless waved by a judge, West Virginia law requires abortion clinics to notify the parent or guardian of a girl under 18 at least 24 hours before she has the abortion.
“West Virginia’s pro-life legislators recognized the need to protect the rights of parents to know when their daughter is contemplating an abortion, which is an invasive surgical procedure and a life-changing decision,” said Karen Cross, legislative coordinator for the pro-life group.
Cross said these types of loopholes sometimes are used by abusers to cover up sexual abuse of minors and hide it from the child’s parents or guardians.
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“If a child is a victim of sexual abuse, I find it unbelievable that she can be given a secret abortion and returned to the abuse,” Cross said. “This law should rectify that because judges are mandatory reporters.”
Parental notification and parental consent laws have strong public support. Currently, 37 states have some type of parental involvement law when a minor seeks an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL and other abortion advocacy groups often lobby against parental involvement laws. They believe that underage girls should be able to abort their unborn babies in a dangerous surgical or drug-induced abortion procedure without their parents’ knowledge or consent. In 2013, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in Montana to overturn its parental involvement requirements.
A 2011 study, “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era,” by Michael New, Ph.D., found that parental involvement laws help to reduce abortions. He found that parental involvement laws reduce in-state abortion rates for minors by approximately 15 percent.