Arizona Judges Can’t Rubber-Stamp Teen Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 19, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Arizona Judges Can’t Rubber-Stamp Teen Abortions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 19, 2003

Phoenix, AZ ( — An Arizona appellate court on Tuesday ruled that judges who allow teenagers to have abortions and bypass the parental involvement laws of the state must use a higher standard and not make judicial bypasses a rubber stamp process.

The ruling came down regarding a Maricopa County case where a 16-year old was denied an abortion without parental consent by one local judge, but obtained approval from a second.

Pro-life groups have long accused abortion advocates of "judge shopping," whereby pro-abortion attorneys try the same bypass case in front of multiple judges in an attempt to avoid parental involvement laws.

Upheld last year, the pro-life law requires girls under 18 to obtain consent from a parent or guardian for an abortion, unless extreme circumstances such as child abuse exist. In such rare cases, girls could obtain a court order from a legal judge if the judge believes she is mature enough to make the abortion decision on her own.

The new ruling does not clarify what standard should be used, but the appellate court said it must be "clear and convincing" before an abortion should be granted. That standard is higher than the "preponderance of the evidence" standard usually used in civil cases.

The court chose the new standard because no one is usually in court to argue on the parents behalf.

The court also said abortion could harm teenage girls and that should be considered.

"Any decision authorizing an abortion will have irreversible consequences unless the minor chooses not to proceed," Judge Ann A. Scott Timmer wrote.

One pro-life group said it was pleased with the ruling.

"One encouraging sign in this opinion is that the courts are not going to rubber-stamp petitions for minors to get abortions," said Cathi Herrod, a lobbyist for the Center for Arizona Policy. "They’re considering the rights of parents involved."