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Consent to Abortion

In 1992 the Supreme Court affirmed that a woman of adult years and sound mind has the same exclusive right to consent to an abortion as to any other medical care.[178] Putative fathers and husbands have no right to be informed or consulted about the woman's decision to have an abortion. The rights of minors are more limited. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has not allowed states to prevent minors from having abortions, states can require minors who do not have parental consent for an abortion to seek consent from a court and to demonstrate that the abortion is in their best interest. At least one state (Utah) has passed a law forbidding most abortions for both minors and adult women. While this law is still under judicial review, it is to be expected that the Supreme Court will allow further restrictions in the availability of abortions. Physicians should keep informed on the current laws in their state of practice.

Physicians should counsel their patients about the emotional consequences of an abortion and their need for social support. If the patient can discuss the matter with friends or family, that is preferable to keeping the decision to herself. But physicians should never abuse their position of trust by coercing a patient into revealing confidential information or reversing her own decision. Physicians who are personally unprepared to counsel their patients about abortion should refer them to another physician or a counselor trained in reproductive matters.

[178]Planned Parenthood v. Casey. 60 U.S.L.W. 4795 (1992).

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