by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
August 20, 2004
Denver, CO (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life leaders are concerned about the high rate at which minors seeking abortions are being granted judicial waivers, allowing them to circumvent a new law requiring them to notify their parents.
The state does not keep official records on the judicial waiver process, but Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains connected 66 minors with lawyers that volunteer time to aid in judicial-bypass cases, according to Planned Parenthood spokesman Kate Horle.
While some of the teens decided not to go through with the proceeding, all who did were granted a waiver.
Kevin Paul, Planned Parenthood’s legal counsel who helped establish the network of lawyers, told the Denver Post that he had not heard of any denials.
State Rep. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch), sponsor of the parental-notifaction bill that passed in November 2003, expressed concern over the high approval rate. He explained that it is impossible to tell if the law is working as intended, since there are no open records about the cases and no count of how many took place or how they were resolved.
"Perhaps there needs to be more oversight on behalf of the legislature to determine if there are legitimate cases where parents need to be denied their rights in knowing about their child’s decision," said Harvey.
Mary Spaulding Balch of the National Right to Life Committee said the 100% approval rate claimed by Planned Parenthood suggests the bypass procedure is a "little more than a rubber stamp."
But some judges claim that’s not the case.
"If anyone thinks they can get a rubber stamp, they won’t," Adams County District Judge Chris Melonakis told the Denver Post. "We’re essentially put in a position in the shoes of a parent. I’m going to take that responsibility seriously."
Pro-life leaders in Texas participated in a legislative hearing earlier this month reviewing their state’s parental notification law passed in 1999.
The law in Texas has had a significant impact on the number of abortion performed on minors, already causing lower teen abortion rates.
A 26.2 percent drop in abortions performed on girls under the age of 17 occurred between 1999 and 2002. In that same period, according to the Texas Department of Health, pregnancies dropped 10.7 percent and births by 7.3 percent, even as the teenager population increased.
Inconsistencies are apparent, however, in the few cases that are counted by the state.
Between January 1, 2000, and March 8, 2002, only 19 judicial waiver cases had been filed in Texas’ Harris County, where more abortions are performed than anywhere else in the state. By comparison, 110 such cases were filed in Travis County and 191 were filed in Bexar County.
"We believe that abortion providers are flagrantly abusing the judicial bypass exception to help minors routinely obtain abortions without parental involvement," said Joe Pojman, Ph.D. executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.
"Planned Parenthood is openly judge shopping by taking young pregnant women hundreds of miles away from home to avoid judges who strictly abide by the law," Pojman added, citing Peter Durkin, director of Planned Parenthood of Houston, who wrote "Court shopping makes sense" in the Houston Chronicle in March 2004.