Utah Bill Tries to Minimize Teen Abortions Under Judicial Bypass Provision

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 16, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Utah Bill Tries to Minimize Teen Abortions Under Judicial Bypass Provision Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 16,

Salt Lake City, UT (LifeNews.com) — A Utah lawmaker is promoting a bill in the state legislature that would minimize the number of abortions done on teenagers under the judicial bypass provision in the state’s parental consent law. The provision, as standard feature in such legislation, allows teens to get around telling their parents about a potential abortion.

Bypass provisions are meant to be rarely used and to provide protection for teenagers who are subjected to abusive home situations or have been victims of incest.

However, other states with similar laws have found abortion businesses regularly get around them by providing free legal representation and shopping for sympathetic judges.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom’s measure would let teenagers get around the consent statute only if the girl’s parents are allowed to be notified about the possible abortion and allowed to weigh in on the desire for a bypass beforehand.

"For something as life-altering as an abortion, parents should have a right to say," Sandstrom told the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Sandstrom indicated he also wants to limit the number of bypass cases by allowing them only when a teenager is a victim of sexual abuse or if her parents have been convicted of child abuse previously.

Teenagers currently only have to tell a court that they feel they are likely to be abused if their parents find out about the pregnancy and the abortion.

However, Missy Larsen, the vice president for public policy at Utah Planned Parenthood, told the newspaper that the bypass provision is required by the Supreme Court and that removing it or diluting it would likely make the parental consent law unconstitutional.

She says the bill is unnecessary because the bypass law is rarely used — saying only eight teens used it to get abortions in Utah in 2006.

The Tribune reported that Sandstrom is scheduled to meet with Rick Schwermer, assistant state court administrator, to see if a slight change in the administrative rules would accomplish the same thing as his bill.

"The bill is something that will hold up in court. I don’t think it will be challenged," he said. "But I would say there’s a pretty good chance right now that we can come up with some compromise with the courts."

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman signed the parental consent bill into law in 2006. The new law replaces an older one that required only notifying parents of a teen’s desire to have an abortion.

According to the state health department, there were 3,338 abortions statewide in 2003.

The Utah Department of Health estimates that 195 girls had abortions in Utah then, according to the latest statistics available. Twenty-four of the girls were younger than 15 and 171 were 15 to 17.

A February 2006 poll conducted by Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV found 54 percent of Utah citizens said they favor the parental consent requirement while just 43 percent oppose the idea.