In a perfect world, every child would have loving, supportive parents, and teenage girls would not need to have abortions. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and some girls who get pregnant want to end those pregnancies. A small percentage don’t have the consent or support of a parent for an abortion. Perhaps a teen girl was raped by her stepfather or kicked out of her house because she is pregnant.

In such instances, alternative forms of consent must be available. Maine law currently requires girls under the age of 18 to have the consent of an adult to receive an abortion. In addition to a parent, the consent can come from a guardian or other adult family member, an approved counselor or a judge.

Legislation again seeks to complicate the already difficult bind in which pregnant teens find themselves. LD 83 would allow consent from adult siblings, grandparents and stepparents to stand in for the consent of parents, but only if a girl signs a written statement affirming that she is a victim of neglect or sexual or physical abuse, which her doctor would then be required to report, potentially setting the girl up for more abuse. Alternatively, the girl can obtain a court order allowing her to seek an abortion.

These barriers would add further trauma to an already difficult and emotional situation.

The oddest part of the bill is that it guarantees the rights of the bill’s legislative sponsors to intervene in any court challenge to its provisions, should it become law. This language is taken verbatim from a handbook from Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group.

If the primary concern of the sponsors is to keep teen abortions rare, Maine’s current law already is sufficient. Less than 5 percent of the abortions performed in Maine involve girls under 18. Of these, 70 percent have parental consent. Maine’s 2011 abortion rate of 9.9 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 was well below the national average of 16.9. Both Maine’s and the U.S. abortion rate has dropped significantly since 1991.

Parental consent requirements in other states have not led to fewer teen abortions, according to recent studies. In 2005, Arkansas toughened its parental consent law to require a teen without consent to obtain a waiver from a judge. A 2010 study found that the new law did not result in fewer teen abortions in Arkansas.

An older study of Massachusetts’ 1981 parental consent law found it did not reduce abortions either. Shortly after the law went into effect, the number of teen abortions appeared to be cut in half. But further investigation found that the drop was attributable to teens going to other states with less stringent rules.

“More than 1,800 minors residing in Massachusetts traveled to five surrounding states … to avoid the statute’s mandates. This group accounts for the reduction in in-state abortions,” the follow-up study, by researchers at Boston University and Yale University, concluded. “A small number of minors (50 to 100) bore children rather than aborting during 1982, perhaps because of the law. Findings suggest that this state’s parental consent law had little effect on adolescents’ pregnancy-resolution behavior.”

We understand that abortion opponents want the abortion rate to be zero. But history has shown that putting up hurdles that make it more difficult for women to exercise their right to choose — and to do so safely — does not mean abortions won’t be performed. Abortions will be performed whether they are legal or not. In the case of pregnant teens, they can seek out states with less onerous parental consent requirements or, worse, resort to illegal providers, a situation that can endanger the mother and fetus.

Adding extra hurdles only hurts women and girls who are already struggling with an excruciatingly difficult decision.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...