A three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with a lower court’s decision to strike down the Parental Consent Act in Alabama, a law that was intended to serve as a safeguard to protect minors seeking an abortion. The court decided that particular amendments to the law represented an “undue burden” for a “large fraction” of minors attempting to get abortions without their parents’ consent.
An amendment to the law allowed minors to bypass parental consent requirements, but only with a judicial bypass. What makes the proposed judicial bypass system in this law different from that of other states is that there would have been a more rigorous examination of the minor’s ability to make mature decisions and act in her own best interest, with the possibility for the District Attorney to cross-examine the minor and subpoena witnesses.
There was also a provision for legal representation of the preborn child’s interests at the hearing. This representative would have the ability to cross-examine the child’s mother, as well as any witnesses, and to subpoena his or her own witnesses. The mother, preborn child, and District Attorney would all have the privilege of appealing any decision the court might make. The State Legislature’s stated motivation behind this amendment was that Alabama’s interest is “to not only . . . protect the rights of the minor mother, but also to protect the state’s public policy to protect unborn life.”
The ACLU hailed the court’s decision, saying the ruling is “key to protecting young people’s access to abortion in Alabama.” Alabama’s Attorney General has stated his intention to appeal the decision.
Sites where post-abortive women share their testimonies are replete with tales of women who had abortions as minors and have experienced lifetimes of regret. “[T]he emotional scars I was left with would last a lifetime. It was not easy to just forget. I couldn’t just erase it from my mind and I had no idea [the] magnitude of the decision I made all those years ago,” Jeanne says.
“It has now been over 20 years since my abortion,” recalls Hollie, “there will always be a sadness inside of me in knowing what I have done, and a sense of loss[.]”
And Gina laments, “I was 15 when I became pregnant and convinced I could not talk to my family. I made the fatal decision to go to [P]lanned [P]arenthood on my own without any support. Oh, how I wish I would have talked to someone, anyone, about alternatives.”
Alabama’s law was designed to protect not only the preborn children these minors carry within them, but also the minors themselves from potentially unforeseen consequences and future regrets.
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