Parental Consent for Abortion: Exploring Situational Ethics

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Updated: Sep 07, 2023
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Situational ethical principles are defined as ‘decisions made in one situation cannot be generalized to another situation’ (Zerwekh & Zerwekh Garneau, 2021). Abortion stances are different for everyone, whether they are pro-choice, pro-life, or in the middle. For me, I stand in the middle because I believe abortion is situational. There are so many decisions that are made in our day-to-day life, and if we all made the same ones, we would not be unique.

Applying Situational Ethics to Minors and Abortions

Situational ethics believes that when we deal with a problem or issue, we take all the facts and then make an informed decision.

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I think situational ethics for minors having abortions without or without parental consent is a good fit because it depends on the situation of said event. How did this patient become pregnant? Was it abuse from a family member; if that were the case, then obviously informing them might not be in the interest of the patient.

If the patient became pregnant because she had unprotected sex with her boyfriend, then she might be okay with her parents knowing she might want an abortion. There are many different types of situations as to why a patient may want an abortion, and there are many reasons why a minor may not want to include their parent in the care.

Ethical Principles in Healthcare

Ethical principles are often used in a healthcare setting, and in this particular issue, there is a handful that can be discussed. The ethical principles pertinent to this issue are autonomy, beneficence, veracity, and justice. Autonomy is defined as the right to patient choice. As nurses, we can have our own ethical beliefs behind an issue, but we keep that separate and always go with the patient’s route of care they choose as it is their right.

Beneficence is doing what is best or what is good for the patient. As stated above, it says that the best thing to do for our patients during this issue is to educate them about their choices and the consequences they might face with those choices. Veracity is the obligation, to tell the truth. While this may be tricky when dealing with minors, nurses always have to remember our patient is the main concern. Our obligation is to tell the patient the truth about any questions or concerns they might have.

Our trust stays with the minor/patient unless their safety is the concern- then confidentiality must be broken. Justice is important as well because abortion is a very controversial topic. There are caregivers who might refuse to take part in situations regarding abortions, but it is our ethical duty to provide appropriate fair, equal, and unjudged care to the patient. (Zerwekh & Zerwekh Garneau, 2021).

Nurses’ Duties and Responsibilities According to ANA Code of Ethics

The ANA code of ethics guide is for carrying out our nursing responsibilities while maintaining the quality of nursing care and all the ethical obligations of the profession. The provisions can be grouped together to make it easier to remember. The first three provisions are the nurse’s responsibility to the patient. The next three provisions can be grouped together to describe the nurse’s obligation to themselves.

The last three provisions are related to the nurse’s relation to their profession, community, and world. (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2021) These impact nursing because they are used throughout our careers. It can almost be treated as an oath one might take as a nurse. An example would be a nurse who will practice with compassion and respect, treat the patient as a priority, and advocate for the patient. These summarize the first three provisions and are what nurses should use daily with patient care.

Personal Stance on Minors and Abortion

My view on this particular issue is that minors have the right to an abortion without parental consent because it puts the patient first; it is also the law in many states. I tend to lean towards this side because there are many circumstances that would lead a minor to make this choice. Most minors include a trusted adult, whether that be a doctor or their parent, in this big decision anyway. There is a small percentage recorded that terminate their pregnancy without parental knowledge or consent.

I think that depending on the age of the minor- they are mature enough to make choices regarding their own health. If their decision is to terminate their pregnancy without parental acknowledgment, I will communicate with the patient regarding their fears towards their parents knowing- just to understand where they are coming from.

Legal Regulations on Minor Abortions in Wisconsin

There are many factors that would make an adolescent abort their child, and this is not a decision that is taken lightly. Even with this communication, it is still the patient’s right to choose, and as a nurse, I have to honor that unless they are in harm’s way. This will guide my practice as I am interested in becoming a nurse in women’s health. Dealing with minors who are pregnant is still prevalent in the U.S., and it is best to know my state’s stance on a minor abortion without parental knowledge to guide me in my care.

In Wisconsin, it is required that a patient receiving an abortion go through a counseling visit before the appointment, and young women under the age of 18 are required to have an adult relative with them, and they have to be over 25. If the minor has an adult who will not consent, they can ask a judge for an exception called judicial bypass. This can take time and ultimately delay the abortion, making it a risky procedure or resulting in bringing the baby to term (Affiliated Medical Services, 2021).

Works Cited

  1. Zerwekh, J. & Zerwekh Garneau, A. (2021). “Nursing Today: Transition and Trends”. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  2. American Nurses Association (ANA) (2021). “Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements”. American Nurses Association.
  3. United Nations (2017). “Convention on the Rights of the Child”. United Nations.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). “Confidentiality in Adolescent Health Care”. Pediatrics, 142(3).
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Parental Consent for Abortion: Exploring Situational Ethics. (2023, Jun 14). Retrieved from