What Judicial Bypass Procedures Are Really Like: The Law of Bullies

The Law of Bullies:

It isn’t supposed to be this way. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that a girl’s parents can’t exercise an absolute veto over her right to an abortion: States requiring parental notification or consent had to provide an escape hatch. The court did not mandate what form this escape hatch should take. Maine, for example, allows a physician to decide whether the minor is competent enough to make her own decision. But that’s not good enough for anti-abortion activists. Led by Americans United for Life, the legislative wing of the pro-life movement, they’ve advanced laws to put the decision in the hands of judges instead.

The process sounds simple: Go to a courthouse, file a form, and get a private hearing within a day or so. If the judge—who usually holds the hearing in his or her chambers—denies the petition, a minor has a right to a speedy appeal. A pregnant teen, according to standards defined by the Supreme Court, must show either that she is mature enough to have an abortion without her parents’ involvement or that an abortion is in her best interest. “The way most laws are written, if you follow the statute, Jane Doe wins almost every time,” Hays says. But in practice, girls are at the mercy of whichever judge they happen to draw, says Anne Dellinger, a retired University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor who has studied the bypass system. “If a girl wanders into the wrong [court], she doesn’t have a chance,” Dellinger says. With few checks on the system, Hays adds, judges are free to impose their beliefs on the girls who appear before them: “It’s the law of bullies.”

Read the full the story in This is How Judges Humiliate Pregnant Teens Who Want Abortion, by Molly Redden, published in Mother Jones September/October 2014

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