Dear Alice,

I am a Columbia freshman and I need to get an abortion. The problem is, I'm 17. Can I legally do this in NY without parental notification? If not, in which states could I get an abortion without parental notification? Money is not a major prohibitory issue here. I would be willing to pay cash for a weekend airline ticket.


Dear Frosh,

Yes, in New York State, a woman of any age can get medical services, including an abortion, without parental notification. It is possible for minors to have an abortion without notifying their parents in some other states as well. Check out Planned Parenthood's state list for more information about state laws on mandatory parental involvement and notification. General information about how states regulate abotion is available from the Guttmacher Institute in State Facts About Abortion. Regardless of a state's parental notification laws, there may be laws prohibiting abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy.

In states that do require parental notification, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there must be another option for underage women to receive an abortion if they need one. This option is called "judicial bypass" and involves a judge giving a ruling on whether a young woman is mature enough to decide to have an abortion without notifying her parent or guardian. Health centers that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, can help direct women who may need to pursue a judicial bypass.

Students at Columbia who are considering abortion can start with a visit to Primary Care Medical Services to get more information and discuss their options — call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator for an appointment. Abortion is covered by Columbia's student health plan, however the service is not available on campus, so after your initial appointment, you will be referred to a provider within the city. You are welcome to bring your partner or a friend, someone who is supportive to you, to appointments on- or off-campus. Take a look at What about abortion? Where? How? to learn more about women's health referrals to outside providers and paying for an abortion for Columbia students.

You can also visit Planned Parenthood for abortion counseling and services. To make an appointment for any one of the three Planned Parenthood centers in New York City, call 212.965.7000. Outside of New York City, call 1.800.230.PLAN (-7526). The National Abortion Federation also provides information, referrals to providers, and can help women plan for covering the cost of an abortion.

Both Health Services at Columbia and Planned Parenthood will also be able to offer you information about contraception, which many women begin using immediately after an abortion to avoid becoming pregnant again. Reaching out for information about abortion can be challenging; remember that the right choice is the choice that you make.

Take care,


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