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Parental notification and the revolving door of judicial bypass

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In 2005, the people of Florida voted almost 65 percent in favor of parental notification in the case of a minor seeking an abortion. The law requires a performing or referring physician to give actual notice (in person or by telephone at least 48 hours prior to beginning the procedure) or constructive notice (in writing mailed at least 72 hours prior to beginning the procedure) to a parent or guardian of a minor’s intention to terminate her pregnancy. The law also provides that a minor may petition any circuit court in a judicial circuit of the District Court of Appeals for a waiver of notice.

Most people probably think that the judicial bypass or waiver of parental notification is only used in extreme cases when both parents are deemed so abusive that the minor would be put in danger if she had to reveal her pregnancy. The truth is that judicial bypass seems to have become the rule rather than the exception. According to the statistics since the law’s inception in 2005, the overwhelming majority (97.5 percent) are granted waivers.

Total: 2207 cases filed - 2082 cases granted.

Abortion providers lure minor girls in for abortions by offering to provide them with a free attorney who will represent them in court so that they can avoid telling their parents about the pregnancy and the abortion -- the most frequently performed surgical procedure in our country. They are schooled in what to say in order to assure that the judge will grant the waiver.

On our recent lobbying trip to Tallahassee for Catholic Days at the Capitol, we were asked to speak to our 38 legislators about the abuse of the judicial bypass. Many of our legislators defended the out-of-control manipulation of the law based on the argument that these girls cannot go to their parents because of physical or sexual abuse in the family. Which begs the question: If all these family members are committing crimes of physical or sexual abuse, where are the follow-up arrests of the perpetrators? Or are we satisfied with covering up the crime and throwing away the evidence (the baby) and then returning the minor back to the same abusive situation?

Judges have complained that they need some kind of maturity standards on which to base their decision as to whether the minor girl is mature enough to make this life-changing decision on her own. It seems strange to me that the law doesn’t seem to have a problem determining the capabilities, or lack thereof, of a minor in all other areas. A minor girl cannot even get her ears pierced or get a tattoo without parental permission.

To try and correct this obvious abuse of what the electorate clearly intended, new legislation has been offered to try to strengthen the current law. If the new bill is passed, the court would have to consider the following factors: age, overall intelligence, emotional development and stability, credibility as a witness, ability to accept responsibility, ability to assess immediate and long term consequences of choices, ability to understand and explain medical risks, and whether there was any undue influence by another on the minor’s decision to have an abortion. The law would also require that the final order include factual findings and legal conclusions relating to the minor’s maturity and the reason why the waiver was granted.

Parents have the right and responsibility to be involved in decisions that affect the physical well being and emotional stability of their minor daughter. A waiting period allows parents or guardians the opportunity to talk to their daughter about the lifelong consequences of choosing an abortion. Clear and convincing evidence must be the standard used to grant a waiver of parental notice.

Joan Crown
Director, archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry

Comments from readers

Andrew Meszaros - 04/14/2010 06:15 PM
You mentioned that 65 percent voted in favor of parental notification: which indicates that 35 percent voted against it. Chilling! If two or three percent voted against it, I might just ignore it, but 35 percent?! Scary statistic! Why on good earth would so many vote against parental notification? Truly it is a culture of death out there. Bringing death upon the innocents is perceived as something civilized.
Doug Hattier - 04/14/2010 05:06 PM
We need to get the congress and the supreme court out of the parental business. They can't even discipline themselves let alone our children. We need to get real people with understanding of real problems to run for office not the run of the mill plastic politician, with a mind of his own and less of a hunger for our money.
Diego Fumiato - 04/14/2010 04:10 PM
I completely agree with this article, the father we are primarily responsible for our children. We take decisions but the most important is the bear children, and that is for life.
Espero que mi ingles se pueda entender, gracias.-
Richard DeMaria - 04/13/2010 02:57 PM
Joan, Thank you for letting us know how what appeared to be a way to deal with exceptional situations has in fact become the rule. I will look for an opportunity to support the new legistlation on this issue. Richard

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