The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday refused a 16-year-old foster child’s request to get an abortion without parental consent.
The court majority ruled that the girl, identified only as Anonymous 5, was not mature enough to make the decision herself.
But two judges, in a dissent, said Nebraska law leaves the girl without an avenue to get an abortion.
“The Legislature has assumed under (the law) that all minors will have a parent or guardian who can give consent,” Judge William Connolly wrote. “As this case illustrates, however, that is not always true.”
Connolly said the girl involved in the case does not have a parent or guardian to give consent for an abortion, other than the State Department of Health and Human Services.
But state regulations bar the department from either giving or withholding consent for a ward to get an abortion.
“She is in legal limbo — a quandary of the Legislature’s making,” Connolly said. [That’s some catch! — Ed.]
The high court ruling was the first involving Nebraska’s new parental consent law.
Passed last year, the law requires girls age 17 and younger to get written, notarized consent from a parent or guardian for an abortion. Previous state law required only that a parent be notified of a girl’s plans for an abortion.
The new law allows girls to bypass the consent provision in medical emergencies, if they are victims of abuse or neglect or if they can convince a judge that they are mature and well-informed enough to make the decision themselves.
Catherine Mahern, the attorney representing the girl, said her client went before Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon in July. At the time, the girl was 10 weeks pregnant.
Mahern declined to say whether the girl is still pregnant, three months later. “It is not in my client’s best interests to comment,” she said.
She noted there are ways for a minor to bypass parental consent other than through the courts. Among them is going to another state, she said.
Mahern said she believes the court ruling avoided some issues, including whether the district court judge demonstrated bias.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, Bataillon had asked the girl if she understood that “when you have the abortion it’s going to kill the child inside you.”
Parental involvement laws: based on the premise that a young woman lacks the maturity to choose to have an abortion but therefore must have the maturity and financial and family resources to be an effective parent. While popular they’re really terrible, and the failure of the judicial bypass process in this case is no anomaly.