Pennsylvania Case Proves Parental Consent Laws Fucking Suck

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that have abhorrant parental consent laws that require pregnant teens to get permission from their parents to have abortions. If they don't want to ask their parents, they have the option to petition a judge. Several months back, one pregnant teen was denied her request to have an abortion because the judge reasoned that if she wasn't mature enough to ask permission from her parents, she sure wasn't mature enough to have an abortion. The minor appealed the decision, but by the time that decision was overturned by the state's Supreme Court, several months had gone by. It's like Catch-22 meets The Handmaid's Tale, but in real life!

According to the Legal Intelligencer, this depressing legal shit-tango began when the Jane Doe found herself three months short of her 18th birthday and 10 weeks pregnant back in March. She told an Allegheny court that she'd been examined by a doctor, that the procedure had been explained to her, and that she understood what it was. She further told the court that she wasn't interested in adoption. In fact, she wasn't interested in discussing the pregnancy with her mother at all, because she was afraid her mother would kick her out of the house.

To the judge, the fact that she was even asking the court permission rather than her parents was indicative of her immaturity and inability to handle the rigorous demands of not being pregnant anymore. He denied her request, because, in his expert uterus-having opinion, abortion was not in the minor's best interest.

Jane Doe appealed the decision, and this week, several months after her original request was denied, the state Supreme Court agreed with Doe and her lawyers, ruling 6-1 that the fact that a minor did not ask her parents' permission should not be grounds for a court to deny a minor permission to terminate a pregnancy. In the majority opinion, Justice Max Baer wrote that allowing judges to claim that simply asking for a court's permission was indicative of a lack of maturity was akin to essentially requiring all minors who wish to obtain abortions in the state of Pennsylvania to ask their parents or be forced to carry their pregnancies to term.

Orie Melvin, the one Justice who dissented disagreed, writing, "It was her reason for not seeking parental consent and not the fact that she elected not to seek consent that properly formed but one of many factors bearing upon the trial court's maturity assessment." Right. So "not wanting to be kicked out of the house" is a sign of immaturity now. Got it.

While this ruling is encouraging, can we agree that this is a perfect example of why parental consent laws really fucking suck? When the judge denied Jane Doe's original request, he essentially ruled that one way or another, her mother was going to find out about the pregnancy, either when Doe asked for her permission to abort or when her pregnancy had advanced enough to become visibly obvious. And if Doe was really dependent on her mother's continued ignorance in order to stay in her home, it's not entirely out of the question that she could have felt moved to resort to desperate, illegal, or unsafe measures.

On what fucking planet does it make sense to require women judged incapable of emotionally handling an abortion to undergo a 9 month, unwanted pregnancy? In what whackadoo world is it sensible to entrust women who lack the capacity to terminate a pregnancy to care for another human life?

Because the case involved a minor, many details are sealed and nonpublic, including whether or not Doe ended up carrying the pregnancy to term. All we know is that according to court documents, she's "no longer pregnant."

Lack of Parental Consent Can't Bar Judicial-Sanctioned Abortion [Legal Intelligencer] (registration required)