Pennsylvania Supreme Court Weighing Parental Consent Abortion Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 31, 2011   |   2:01PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be hearing a case on the state’s parental consent law that requires minor teens to get their parent’s permission for an abortion. This is the first-ever review of the pro-life law by the state’s highest court and it has received legal support from pro-life groups and state legislators  who support the law protecting a parent’s right to be involved in their child’s decision regarding abortion.

The Pennsylvania law and others like it have already been upheld at the U.S. Supreme Court and pro-life groups argue that a Pennsylvania trial court judge applied the correct legal standard and legitimately exercised his legal authority under the statute when he rejected a minor girl’s request for a secret abortion, stating that she needed consent from at least one of her parents. 

The girl in the lawsuit, In re: Jane Doe, sought a judicial bypass that would have hidden the abortion from her parents. A Pennsylvania trial court judge denied that bypass. Ultimately, in this case, at least one parent of the girl consented to the abortion of their grandchild.

While the law allows for a bypass in certain circumstances, it does not require rubber-stamp approval of every petition. The brief argues that a judge should have the freedom to carefully weigh the evidence and exercise proper discretion in allowing the parents a role in the abortion decision.

The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, Pennsylvania Family Institute, and Pennsylvania Catholic Conference   have joined with dozens of state lawmakers in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the potentially landmark case regarding the law that the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld.

“If a teenage needs a parent’s permission before getting her ears pierced, certainly she should need parental consent before obtaining an abortion,” said Michael Ciccocioppo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation told “The legislature intended that parents have a right and a duty to be involved in a matter as grave as a teenager getting an abortion.”

“We believe that the judicial bypass was used in this case precisely the way the legislature intended,” Ciccocioppo added.  “The judicial bypass was never meant to be a rubber-stamp for abortion.  There is clearly no automatic right to judicial bypass in all cases.”

Ciccocioppo says an abortion can have profound repercussions for a girl, including serious physical and psychological complications, some of which may last a lifetime.  The friend-of-the-court brief details study after study showing the damage done by abortion.

“It is our hope that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will use this case to affirm the lower courts’ rulings and interpret the Abortion Control Act as the General Assembly intended it to be read,” he said.

Attorneys for the girl in question say the appeals court should have weighed her maturity and ability to consent for the abortion rather than just studying the legal process the judge used to deny the teen’s abortion.

Jennifer Boulanger, executive director of the Allentown Women’s Center, told the Trentonian newspaper that she was surprised the judge rejected the abortion request.

“That court is taking that minor’s life into its own hands,” Boulanger said. “She is going to be the one raising that child. It’s not only going to affect the minor, it’s going to affect the minor’s family and it is going to affect the child that she has.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has also filed legal papers in the case arguing the appeals court should have ensured the lower court decision was backed up by proper evidence and said the state law does not set forth guidelines for when the minor girl is supposedly mature enough to get an abortion.

Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center is involved the case and said “Pennsylvania law appropriately requires that children obtain parental consent to get a body piercing in Pennsylvania, yet abortionists argue that these same children should be able to secretly kill their preborn babies in a risky medical procedure. While the baby in this particular case can never be brought back, the law must be upheld so that Pennsylvania parents may protect their daughters from being victimized under the cover of darkness by the profiteers of death in the abortion industry.”

Officials with the Alliance Defense Fund and Americans United for Life submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court supporting the law.

“Parents should have a right to be involved in their child’s critical life-changing decisions, and that includes abortions,” ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman told previously. “Secret abortions performed on minors leave children in the hands of a predatory abortion industry that has put profits above parents’ rights and the health and safety of young girls and their preborn children.”