The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Actis confusing for most people and it is difficult to perceive what women will have to go through to exercise their right to choose. For many people, the restrictions seem reasonable. A few questions and answers may illustrate the law's actual effect on women and teens.
WHAT IS SO UNREASONABLE ABOUT GIVING WOMEN MORE TIME TO CONSIDER THEIR DECISION?
The 24 hour delay will actually mean a much longer wait for women. Women will have to go to three appointments at a reproductive health care provider -- this may mean a delay of one week, two weeks or longer. Women who are almost at the end of their first trimester (first 3 months of pregnancy) may be forced to wait until their second trimester, when the abortion procedure is much more expensive and more dangerous.
WHAT, EXACTLY, WILL WOMEN WHO CHOOSE TO HAVE AN ABORTION HAVE TO DO?
A woman who believes she may be facing an unintended pregnancy will go to a family planning clinic for a pregnancy test. (She must have a professional test -- home pregnancy tests are not reliable enough for medical procedures.) If her pregnancy test is positive and she requests further information, a counselor will give her information about all of her options -- adoption, abortion, and motherhood.
If, given her life circumstances, she chooses abortion, she will be told she must make two appointments, one for a counseling session and the other for the procedures, which must be at least 24 hours after the counseling session. If the next available surgical date is 2 days, 3 days, or one week away, she must wait until that date.
ISN'T IT REASONABLE FOR PARENTS TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR CHILD'S DECISION TO HAVE AN ABORTION?
Planned Parenthood works hard to improve and foster communication between parents and teens. Parenting classes and programs which improve teen self-esteem are much more likely to improve family communication. However, forced communication by law has actually proven to create chaos in family life.
A study by the Alan Guttmacher Instituteshowed that more than 63% of all teens do tell their parents about their decision to have an abortion. Teens who do not tell their parents about their decision describe a number of reasons for not doing so, including fear of violence, fear of disappointing their parents, fear of sexual abuse, fear that their parents will argue about it.
DOES A TEEN HAVE TO BRING A PARENT WITH HER OR CAN SHE GET A WRITTEN CONSENT FORM?
The teen must bring a parent with her to the state mandated information session. She must tell her parent she's pregnant, ask the parent to come with her to the clinic to receive the state information session and obtain written consent from her parent at least 24 hours later.
WHAT ABOUT TEEN VICTIMS OF INCEST?
A teen who is the victim of parental incest will have to ask permission from her rapist (father) or her mother, who is unfortunately married to the rapist and may not know about the ongoing abuse. She can by law ask a judge for a "judicial bypass," permission to have an abortion without her parent's consent. However, if she tells the counselor in the family planning clinic, the court appointed attorney, or the judge that she has been sexually abused, they must report it to the police. Counselors and attorneys must advise teens of their legal obligation to report rape and incest.