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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

October-07-13

Nebraska Supreme Court Denies 16-Year-Old Foster Child an Abortion

The Nebraska Supreme Court refused on Friday to grant a 16-year-old foster child's request to get an abortion without parental consent.

A 2011 Nebraska law requires minors under 18 to obtain notarized parental consent in order to obtain an abortion. Minors may receive a judicial waiver of this requirement under three circumstances: if there is a medical emergency, if the minor is a victim of abuse or neglect, or if a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that the minor is sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion. The 2011 law replaced the state's parental notification law, which did not require notarized consent.

The girl, who is not identified in court papers, was 10 weeks pregnant when she sought a judicial waiver of the parental consent requirement. She needed a waiver because, as a ward of the state, she did not have legal parents who could give consent for her to obtain an abortion. Nebraska had earlier terminated the parental rights of her physically abusive biological parents, and although the girl and her two siblings live in a foster home, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services remains her legal guardian.

After advising the girl that "when you have the abortion, it's going to kill the child inside you," lower court judge Peter Bataillon denied her request for a waiver. Bataillon, who according to RH Reality Check, had been an attorney for extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, found that the girl was not mature and informed enough to make the decision to have an abortion. He also found that the girl should have sought consent from her foster parents, even though the girl's foster parents are not her legal guardian and the state regulations governing the Department of Health and Human Services gives minors in its custody the right to consent to abortion, without seeking permission from the Department.

During her judicial bypass hearing, the girl testified that she could not financially support a child or "be the right mom that [she] would like to be right now." She also stated that she feared that she would lose her foster placement if her foster parents, who are anti-abortion, knew of her pregnancy, and that she felt that carrying her pregnancy to term and placing the child up for adoption "would be worse for her and her family because her foster parents would have resentment toward her," according to court papers.

The state Supreme Court denied the girl's appeal, meaning that the government would force a 16-year old girl to carry a pregnancy to term. Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said the ruling was "concerning" because it eliminated "a safe and legal option for a woman in a dire circumstance."

Media Resources: The Houston Chronicle 10/4/13; RH Reality Check 10/6/13; Nebraska Supreme Court; Omaha World-Herald 10/5/13


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