13 States Prohibit Pregnant Teens From Receiving Epidurals Without Parental Consent

Thirteen states around the country make life even harder for pregnant teens by prohibiting them from making their own pre-natal health care decisions, including whether or not to have an epidural.

Many states require minors to receive parental consent before they receive medical treatment, but most also have a number of exceptions including pre-natal care as well as substance abuse counseling and birth control. According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, however, thirteen states—including Ohio, Wyoming and Nebraska—have no explicit exception whatsoever that allows minors to consent to pre-natal care. Other states have exceptions according to the age of the minor, their maturity, or their marital status.

While pregnant teens can receive emergency care, procedures deemed elective, like epidurals, are completely off the table without parental consent. In practice, this means the most vulnerable teens fall into a gap in coverage and consent which leaves them unable to make decisions for themselves during their pregnancy and birth.

For example, pregnant runaways or those estranged from their parents cannot receive an epidural and must endure a painful birth. Or, as one doctor told NPR, parents who want to punish their teens for becoming pregnant can prevent them from having an epidural. There is nothing doctors can do but try to talk parents out of that decision.

“To take the mom aside,” said Dr. Michael Cackovic, “and say, ‘You know, this isn’t some life lesson here. This is basically pain — and there’s no reason for somebody to go through that.’”

Ultimately, though, it’s up to parents to decide.

Because the law also prevents teens from consenting to a C-section, parents can also prohibit their daughter from having one even when the doctor recommends it. Tests for chromosomal abnormalities are also considered elective and therefore teens cannot consent, which Dr. Cackovic thinks is backwards. After giving birth, teens can consent to care for their infants but they cannot decide to have tests which would diagnose their child beforehand.

The problem is that minors are usually overlooked by lawmakers who could fill in these gaps and prevent allow pregnant teens to make the necessary decisions for their pregnancy and childbirth. Ohio state representatives, though, are currently working to pass legislation which would expand health care rights for minors.

Representatives Nickie Antonio and Kristin Boggs have introduced HB 302 which would enable teens to consent to prenatal and delivery care without parental permission. If the bill doesn’t pass, vulnerable pregnant teens will continue to fall through the cracks.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

42 comments

caroline lord
caroline lord10 days ago

not right

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Jaime J
Jaime J10 days ago

Thank you!!

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Nicole H
Nicole H11 days ago

Little slip of the pen : should read : 36 hours of suffering ... not 16 of course !!

Also, some apparently don't think this is an issue, because in earlier times, there were no epidurals. Okay, that's right. But when medication is available to seriously reduce pain, why should we not use it. Do some of you really still enjoy the "pain" of giving birth 40 or 50 years ago. I was refused epidural by my doctor, because my son was not in the good position, and he needed me to be able to fully give all I could to allow a normal birth, otherwise I would have a C-section. I was in labour from 06.00 am till 6.35 pm. And I had to push that much that all the small veins in my face had bursted, and I was just full with small read dots in my face... But, if I could have had an epidural, I certainly would not have hesitated.

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Nicole H
Nicole H11 days ago

Well, there are stupid laws, and even more stupid laws. When a girl of 16,5 / 17 years is giving birth to her first born, she is freaked up by fear, anxiety, stress, etc.. It is all so new, they most certainly heard terrible stories of women who were in labor for 1,5 days before the baby effectively was born. 16 hours of suffering badly. Epidurals exist for about 50 years I think, it is totally harmless, and the only result is that the pain in reduced seriously. It is much better to have your baby without all that pain, so that you really can enjoy your baby as from the first moment. When you have been suffering for 36 hours or even more, you are exhausted, and "leave me alone" is the only thing you say. The baby can wait. This is not a good start of what should be a great moment, for the baby AND for the mother. This LAW is really ridiculous, and should be altered RIGHT NOW !! I can understand parents are not very happy when their 16 year old girl tells she is pregnant. But do you really want her to suffer that long because you still are angry ??

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One Heart i
One Heart i12 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Mike R
Mike R12 days ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R12 days ago

Thanks

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Elaine W
Elaine W13 days ago

Noted with dismay.

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One Heart i
One Heart i13 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Maureen G
Maureen G14 days ago

I would be more concerned if the doctor said the baby should be born by C section and the parents refused consent as this article mentioned could happen in some places. What happens then? Hopefully commonsense would prevail.

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