In Nebraska 16 Is Too Young For Abortion, But Old Enough To Parent

Last Friday in a move that proves for some judges law doesn’t matter, only what your pastor has told you, the Nebraska Supreme Court denied a request from a 16 year old ward of the state for a judicial bypass so she could obtain an abortion. If you have never heard of a judicial bypass allow me to explain.

In their crusade to make abortions all but impossible to obtain anti choice activists have pushed ?for and got passed parental consent laws. Nebraska passed their parental consent law in 2011 it ?requires written notarized consent from both the minor and one parent.?Most states that have consent laws have a option for young women who can’t go to their parents or guardian for that consent. Girls can then go before a judge and ask that they grant a bypass of the permission requirement for the abortion. In Nebraska a teen can request judicial bypass if she meets one of three criteria 1) medical emergency 2) she is the victim of abuse or neglect or 3) she can prove she is mature and well informed enough to make the decision.

The Nebraska case is more complicated than just a girl who couldn’t ask for permission. The girl known as Anonoymous 5 in court has foster parents who she testified in court have?“strong religious views about abortion.” ?Despite presenting evidence that she helped raise her younger siblings, had weighed the impact of her pregnancy and is scheduled to graduate early, the girl was denied an abortion. In the original hearing Judge?Bataillon told the petitioner no. Choosing instead to condescend to her after questioning, saying, ?when you have the abortion it’s going to kill the child inside you? ?He ruled she didn’t meet any of the criteria and would need her foster parents permission.

During the Supreme Court appeal it was established that the state’s own regulations say the choice to have an abortion is to be the decision of the foster child not the foster parents. According to a story by Jessica Mason Pieklo at?RH Reality Check, the state Supreme Court declared?those regulations meaningless in light of the new ?parental consent law. In addition, since they have now established that girls in state care have no one to ask for permission and in order to ask for judicial bypass you have to say why you can’t ask your parent or guardian they have just made it nearly impossible for young women in foster care to obtain abortion services.

Nebraska lawmakers need to figure out where they stand on the issue of teens being mature enough to make serious life and medical decisions for themselve,s because a look at current state law leads me to believe they think teens are quite capable. I tend to agree.

Teens can consent to their own STD treatment including HIV without parental involvement. ?Teen mothers can consent to giving up their baby for adoption all by themselves. That’s a pretty big deal. If a teen is pregnant they can consent to ALL of their prenatal care on their own including a c-section which is major surgery far more risky than an abortion. If they give birth they can make medical decisions for their child without their parents help or consent. ?What teens can’t consent to in Nebraska is abortion. Oh, and the state only protects a minors right to consent to contraception if they are married. They don’t prohibit other teens from access to contraception but providers can refuse to see them without a parent. Which is odd because contraception prevents abortion. It just seem as if this about something else.

Let’s be honest.Nebraska and other states with judges denying young women on the same grounds of immaturity are not doing it for that reason. It’s pretty clear this isn’t about teenager maturity it’s about judges forcing their beliefs on young women. ?Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to leave the courtroom and set up all their prenatal care alone if they want or have to.?States wouldn’t often emancipate young women in foster care once they have children when they are hard to place. Something I have personally witnessed happen.

Anonomous 5 very clearly understands the reality for young mothers in foster care. ?She told the court she feared she would lose her placement if her foster family found out about her pregnancy. ?That they may not be accepting of her child and may tell her siblings she was “a bad person”. She weighed her options and decided what was best for her and her siblings to be able to stay together as a family. Then she was brave enough to go to court to do it. That sounds pretty mature to me.


Edited/Published by: SB



Laurie Bertram Roberts is the president of Mississippi National Organization for Women, a feminist activist, full spectrum doula and writer in Jackson, MS. Her family suspected she was trouble when at age 8 she preferred reading weekly news magazines over girly magazines. Her early fascination with liberal ideals, women's rights, was not quite welcome in her conservative fundamentalist Christian home. She is incredibly passionate about reproductive justice and fighting all forms of oppression. When not speaking truth to power she is likely hanging out with her children watching sci fi or doing other nerd like things.