A woman who wants an abortion can make this decision on her own in most cases. But sometimes other people are involved. This article explains the rules about abortion decisions.
Basic Rule: Women Can Decide Alone
A woman 14 years old or older can make a decision about an abortion alone. This has been the situation since 1989. She does not need permission from a committee of doctors or anyone else. Therefore, spouses, partners, parents, friends, health-care professionals and religious communities can’t make the decision for her or force her into making one decision instead of another.
Exceptions: Women Under 18 and Women Unable to Care for Themselves and Their Affairs
There are three exceptions to the rule that women can make abortion decisions on their own.
1. Teenagers 13 Years or Younger
Children 13 years old or younger can’t decide on their own to have an abortion. They need permission from their parents or their tutors.
If the parents don’t agree on what to do, or if the parents and the child disagree with each other, they can ask a court to decide what’s in the child’s best interest.
2. Young Women 14 to 17
Young women who are 14 to 17 years old (but not 18), don’t need anyone else’s permission to have an abortion. But if they have to stay in a health-care institution for more than 12 hours due to the procedure, then their parents or tutors must be told that they are there.
For more information, see Éducaloi’s article on consent to medical care.
3. Adult Woman Unable to Care for Herself or Her Affairs
If an adult woman is legally incapable of giving consent to medical care, another person would have to make a decision about an abortion in her place. A person could be incapable, for example, because she doesn’t fully understand the concept of an abortion and its consequences.
Different people can consent on behalf of a woman who is incapable, depending on the specific situation. For example, her spouse or partner, her tutor or a close relative can make a decision in her place.
Decision in the Interests of the Pregnant Woman
For the three exceptions listed above, whoever makes the decision for the woman must base it only on her best interests. They must also take her wishes into account, if she’s able to express herself.
Free and Informed Consent
As is the case for any medical procedure, a woman’s decision about an abortion must be made with full knowledge of all the facts. She must know the risks and benefits. If she does, then her consent is “free and informed.”