Michigan Senate Votes to Tighten Parental Consent on Abortion Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 22, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Michigan Senate Votes to Tighten Parental Consent on Abortion Law

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
January 22, 2004

Lansing, MI (LifeNews.com) — The Michigan Senate approved changes to the state’s parental consent law on Wednesday, making the process of a judicial override of parental rights less of a "rubber-stamp" process. The bill now passes back to the House who approved it originally last year, before it goes on to pro-abortion Governor Jennifer Granholm, who is expected to veto it.

"The current parental consent law allows minors to procure an abortion without the knowledge or consent of their parents through a parental bypass waiver that can be granted by a judge," Kristen Hemker of Right to Life of Michigan told LifeNews.com.

"According to the State Court Administrative Office, up to 800 bypasses are applied for each year and approximately 90% of those judicial bypass waivers are granted," Hemker explained.  "In many instances, the judicial bypass system has become a rubber-stamp process."

House Bill 4478 passed in the Senate after only an hour’s debate, 25-13. Drafted in response to complaints from local judges, the bill would define standards for when an abortion could be requested without parental consent, allow the judge to appoint an attorney as a parental advocate, and prohibit minors from petitioning another county court if the first court denies their request.

In other cases, they may still appeal to a higher court in they are not satisfied with the first ruling, but can no longer go "judge shopping" for a county judge that will grant a parental bypass waiver.

"This is commonsense legislation which is beneficial for both families and young women facing an untimely pregnancy," added Pam Sherstad, director of public information for Right to Life of Michigan. "The vast majority of families will reach out in love to their daughters during an unplanned pregnancy, but families cannot help if they are not informed."

The revised law would have judges take into account certain factors, such as maturity of the teen girl, academic history, medical history, efforts to learn of alternatives to abortion, and sexual history when deciding whether or not to grant a judicial override. The measures are intended to help the judge determine if the teen would return with another abortion request.

"If she’s seeking an abortion today, is she going to be in front of the judge in another six months seeking another one?" asked Rep. William O’Neil (D-Allen Park), the sponsor of the bill.

Already, the state’s parental consent law has decreased abortions in the state, and pro-life advocates believe the change would reduce the number even further.

"According to statistics from the Michigan Department of Community Health, the number of abortions performed on minors has been cut by over 55% and the number of teenagers giving birth has decreased by over 49% since passage of Michigan’s parental consent law in 1990," Hemker said.

The Supreme Court requires parental involvement laws to contina a judicial bypass.

Meanwhile, Gov. Granholm vetoed the state’s Legal Birth Definition act in October, an action pro-life leaders called "inexcusable." A campaign for a voter override of the veto is currently underway.

In August, a woman who received a judicial override as a teenager, despite being on drugs that clouded her awareness and memory of the proceedings, was denied access to her file. She desired to review her own case in order to determine why the courts considered her to be capable of making such a critical decision without her parent’s input.

The Michigan Department of Community Health said there were 1,744 abortions among Michigan girls between ages 15 and 17 in 2001.

Related web sites:
Right to Life of Michigan – https://www.rtl.org