Pregnant minors would be unable to obtain an abortion without at least attempting to notify their parents under a measure that cleared the Indiana Senate Tuesday.
The first-of-its-kind abortion measure would drastically change the state’s judicial waiver process, which allows someone under the age of 18 to pursue an abortion procedure with permission from the court system without notifying a parent or guardian. It instead mandates that parents be served legal notice and have the opportunity to object in court — a move that supporters argue would strengthen parental rights.
But critics, including some Republicans, say allowing minors to have abortions without involving their parents is the entire point.
In some cases, they argue, the pregnancy is a result of incest or rape. In others, minors could face physical harm if their parents were informed about the pregnancy.
“This is essentially and fundamentally going through, around and getting rid of the whole point of judicial bypass,” said Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian. “It puts the parents back into the mix, when the whole purpose of the bypass was to keep them out of the mix.”
The measure cleared the Senate 36-13 Tuesday, with four Republicans joining Democrats in opposing it. It now moves to the House for consideration.
Republican Sen. Erin Houchin, the author, contends her proposal protects the judge’s ability to make a determination on the minor’s petition and would not give parents veto power.
There’s nothing in statute that prohibits them from being notified a hearing is occurring, she said, and their presentation of evidence could give the judge more information to aid his decision.
As written now, notice would have to be served to a parent before a juvenile court hearing could occur. That notice could include registered or certified mail or other public means — like an advertisement placed in a newspaper.
The juvenile court could consider a petition after that notice is served, which would include an evidentiary hearing where parents could make arguments.
The bill was amended for clarification after it cleared a legislative panel last week, where some were confused about whether the notification would even be possible in the 48 hour timeframe set out in statute for the juvenile court to issue a ruling. The 48 hours would not begin until after notice is served.
The measure would also give parents a path to legal recourse against individuals who aided their minor in obtaining an abortion without their consent. It would also require the people providing consent to prove they are who they claim with notarized, written consent, proof of identification and documentation establishing they are the parent, guardian or custodian.
Houchin and other abortion opponents say the proposal would rightfully involve parents in a process that could have a lasting effect on their child.
“I’ve heard some talk that this is a bill about women’s rights. This is a bill about parental rights,” Houchin said. “These are not women seeking abortions. They are children seeking abortions.”
Some discussion Tuesday centered around whether the bill would hold up in court, with some arguing the Supreme Court has previously agreed with parental involvement laws only if they include a confidential judicial bypass procedure.
Of the 36 states that require parental involvement and offer an alternative judicial bypass procedure for abortions, none mandate notifying parents that the minor is pursuing a bypass, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
“This requires (parents) to be involved and informed if she tries to get a judicial bypass, in a clear violation of that confidentiality requirement,” said Democratic Sen. Jean Breaux. “This is just another affront to a woman’s right — in this case, a young woman’s right — to choose a legal and safe abortion.”