Maya Manian


As numerous scholars have noted, the law takes a strikingly incoherent approach to adolescent reproduction. States overwhelmingly allow a teenage girl to independently consent to pregnancy care and medical treatment for her child, and even to give up her child for adoption, all without notice to her parents, but require parental notice or consent for abortion. This Article argues that this oft-noted contradiction in the law on teenage reproductive decision making is in fact not as contradictory as it first appears. A closer look at the law’s apparently conflicting approaches to teenage abortion and teenage childbirth exposes common ground that scholars have overlooked. This Article is the first to compare the full spectrum of minors’ reproductive rights and the first to unmask deep similarities in the law on adolescent reproduction – in particular an undercurrent of desire to punish (female) teenage sexuality, whether pregnant girls choose abortion or childbirth. It demonstrates that in practice, the law undermines adolescents’ reproductive rights, whichever path of pregnancy resolution they choose. At the same time that the law thwarts adolescents’ access to abortion care, it also fails to protect adolescents’ rights as parents. The Article’s analysis shows that these two superficially conflicting sets of rules in fact work in tandem to enforce a traditional gender script – that self-sacrificing mothers should give birth and give up their infants to better circumstances, no matter the emotional costs to themselves. This Article also suggests novel policy solutions to the difficulties posed by adolescent reproduction by urging reforms that look to third parties other than parents or the State to better support adolescent decision making relating to pregnancy and parenting.

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