Federal Judge Strikes Alabama’s Parental Consent law

By Dave Andrusko

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker

Last Friday U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker struck down portions of Alabama’s parental consent law on the grounds that the 2014 changes to the law, first passed in 1987, impose an “undue burden” on a minor seeking an abortion.

Like all consent laws, Alabama’s law requires minors who can’t secure parental consent for their abortion to go to court for permission.

According to the Catholic News Agency

The 2014 law modified the process to allow a judge to appoint a guardian “for the interests of the unborn child.” The law allows the local district attorney to call witnesses and question the girl to determine her maturity level. If the minor’s parents or guardians learn of the hearing they may also be involved.

The state of Alabama defended the law, arguing it allows a meaningful inquiry to judge the minor’s maturity while providing a “confidential, and expeditious option for a teenager who seeks an abortion without parental consent.”

The intent was to end the practice of judicial “rubberstamping” of requests made by minors. State Rep. Mike Jones was the author of HB 494.

At the time Rep. Jones issued a statement in which he said, “This act clarified previous law to provide judges and court officers with much-needed guidance on the procedures for these types of determinations, which are very important to the health and well-being of our minors, all while keeping proper safeguards in place to protect their privacy.”

He also told the Daily Caller “This law ensures that if a minor is seeking an abortion without parental consent, they fully understand the ramifications of their decision and prove that they are wholly aware of its impact – it’s that simple.”

Jones added. “This act clarified previous law to provide judges and court officers with much-needed guidance on the procedures for these types of determinations, which are very important to the health and well-being of our minors, all while keeping proper safeguards in place to protect their privacy.”

But federal judge Walker brushed all this aside in a 54 page decision.

“The judicial bypass option is rendered meaningless if, as in Alabama’s bypass statute – which has no counterpart in any other state bypass law – parents or legal guardians can participate as parties under some circumstances, and if there are insufficient safeguards to protect the anonymity of the minor petitioner. ..These are cornerstone requirements for a judicial bypass law to pass constitutional scrutiny.”

According to the Associated Press, “The Alabama attorney general’s office said it is reviewing the decision.”