PHOENIX, AZ, August 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – A report published this month by the Arizona Department of Health Services shows that the state’s judges grant minor girls’ requests to bypass parental consent laws when seeking abortions the vast majority of the time, lending credence to critics’ concerns that offering judicial waivers makes such laws toothless.
Since 2003, Arizona has required at least one parent to give consent for any abortion performed on a girl under 18 years of age. But girls who don’t want to tell their parents they are pregnant can petition the court for a waiver of the requirement.
According to the latest report, since the state started keeping track in late 2010, 95 out of 128 requests by young girls looking to hide their abortion from their parents were approved – or 75% of such requests.
Helena Silverstein, a Lafayette University researcher who specializes in abortion law, told the AP that the high number of approvals in Arizona was in line with other states she has studied.
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“In every state I have studied, or other people have studied, the pattern is the same,” said Silverstein, “and the pattern is that a minor who makes her way to a court and gets before a judge to petition for a bypass is very likely to get her petition granted.”
While most judges are reticent about the judicial bypass process due to the secretive nature of the proceedings – such hearings are always closed and records are sealed afterward – Alabama juvenile court Judge James Strickland told the Tuscaloosa News in 1997 that he felt he had little choice but to grant waivers to girls who requested them.
Strickland said that because appeals courts tend to rule on the side of the woman who wants an abortion, “If I didn’t approve, I would be reversed on appeal.” Strickland said he tried to get abortion-minded girls to really consider what they were doing, but if the girls said they wanted to proceed, he had to sign the order.
Supporters of judicial bypass argue that it protects the girl who fears her parents would retaliate with physical violence or by putting her out on the streets if they found out she was having sex. But an ACLU study showed that of the teens who did not tell a parent about their abortion, only 22% feared they would be kicked out of the house, and only about 8% feared that they would be physically harmed.
“A lot of teenagers read a lot more into what their parents are going to do or not going to do than they should,” attorney John Jakubczyk, former head of Arizona Right to Life, told the AP.