Indiana Court: Teens Need Only One Parent’s Permission for Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 14, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Indiana Court: Teens Need Only One Parent’s Permission for Abortion

by Maria Gallgher Staff Writer
October 14, 2003

Indianapolis, IN ( — Indiana girls need the permission of only one parent to get an abortion, even in cases where the girls’ parents are divorced, according to a recent
ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The ruling might not be a surprise, since Indiana law requires only one parent’s consent for an abortion for a girl under age 18, unless the girl can prove to a judge that she is mature enough to make the decision without a parent’s permission. However, the lawyer for the girl’s father, who argued against the abortion, said that the unborn baby was viable and therefore could not be legally aborted.

The decision involved a case in which divorced parents share custody of their minor daughter. A Dearborn County judge, Circuit Judge James Humphrey, had ruled that, in such cases, the consent of both parents would be required because of the custody situation. However, the three-judge panel unanimously overturned Judge Humphrey’s ruling.

In the ten page appellate court opinion, Judge John Baker expressed little regard for the fundamental human rights of unborn children. Instead, his aim seemed to be to make it as easy as possible for teenage girls to obtain abortions.

"There is no rational reason to make it more difficult for the child of
divorced parents to receive an abortion than for the child of married
parents," Judge John Baker wrote. "This would merely be visiting
condemnation upon the head of an innocent child who is not responsible for her parents’ divorce."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,109
abortions were performed in Indiana in 1999. Sixty-nine of those abortions were performed on girls younger than 15, while 2,329 were performed on girls age 15 to 19.

The Indiana case involved an unidentified 15-year-old girl who received an abortion after a September 15th hearing.

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union argued the case on behalf of the minor and her mother. The union’s attorney, Jacquelyn Bowie Suess, told the Associated Press that the ruling supports the idea that state law supersedes civil contracts such as divorce agreements.

Lawyers for the father argued that ultrasound images and medical literature indicated that the girl’s unborn baby was viable. It was believed that the girl was about five months pregnant when the case came to trail September 5.

"She was pretty far along, and if a child lives to be 20 weeks in Indiana, they ought to be allowed to continue," John R. Price, an a lawyer for the girl’s father, told the AP. "Our law says the taking of a viable child in the womb is an unlawful act."

Judge Humphrey blocked the abortion because he agreed with that assessment. However, the appeals court reversed the ruling, saying that Indiana law requires a medical doctor to determine the viability of an unborn child.

The appeals court sidestepped the question of when a child is viable, or can live outside a mother’s womb.