Who Decides?
The Abortion Rights of Teens
by J. Shoshanna Ehrlich
April 2006, 224pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98321-5
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-0-313-01628-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

This is the first book to examine in thorough detail the decision-making experiences of teens considering abortion.

The question of whether a young woman should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy without her parents’ knowledge has been one of the most contentious issues of the post Roe v. Wade era. Parental involvement laws reach to the core of the parent-teen relationship in the highly contested realm of adolescent sexuality. This is the first book to examine in thorough detail the decision-making experiences of teens considering abortion. Shoshanna Ehrlich evaluates the Supreme Court’s efforts to reconcile the historically based understanding of teens as dependent persons in need of protection with a more contemporary understanding of them as autonomous individuals with adult-like claims to constitutional recognition.

Arriving at a compromise, the Court has made clear that, like adult women, teens have a protected right of choice, but that states may impose a parental involvement requirement. However, so that parents are not vested with veto power over their daughters’ decisions, young women must be allowed to seek a waiver of the requirement. Integrating a wealth of social science literature, including in-depth interviews with 26 young women from Massachusetts who obtained court authorization for an abortion, the book raises important questions about the logic of a legal approach that requires young women to involve adults when they seek to terminate a pregnancy, but that allows them to make a decision to become mothers on their own.


"Ehrlich explores the social and emotions as well as the legal dimensions of young women who are pregnant but not prepared to bear and raise a child. Her study pivots on the voices of 26 young women from Massachusetts who, under state law, elected to seek court authorization for an abortion rather than obtain consent from a parent. The series will deal with topics about reproduction that are currently contentious in the US, if not anywhere else in the world."—Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2006

"Shoshanna Ehrlich's book is a must read for every policy maker to remind them that their actions have consequences in real people's lives. The teens' stories are enlightening, touching, sometimes heartrending. Together, they tell a larger story about our society's refusal to give young women's decisions the respect and support they deserve and how we can rectify that."—Gloria Feldt, Author of The War on Choice and Behind Every Choice Is a Story and former president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

"In this careful and thoughtful analysis of the law, Shoshanna Ehrlich adds an additional dimension to the discourse: the voices of young women who have been through the process and how they arrived at their decisions.... This is a must read for all who care about the lives of young women as they strive to make the right decision about their futures."—Kenneth C. Edelin, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Associate Dean of Students and Minority Affairs, Boston University School of Medicine

"Finally we have a book that places young women's experiences at the center of the debate over restrictions on their abortion rights.... [Ehrlich] gives us a new and deeper understanding of the burdens parental involvement laws impose on adolescent girls, the motivation behind the laws, and the integrity of the women's choices."—Marlene Gerber Fried, Director, Civil Liberties and Public Policy Programs at Hampshire College and Professor of Philosophy

"Shoshanna Ehrlich is one of the nation's leading advocates for adolescents' reproductive health care and rights. With both compassion and candor, Shoshanna is able to step outside the often polarized debate about abortion and provide the reader with real life stories of young women facing the issue."—Louise Melling, Director, Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU
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