Pa. Supreme Court upholds 'judicial bypass'
The state Supreme Court said on Thursday that a 17-year-old girl's decision not to tell her mother about a planned abortion was not a valid reason for an Allegheny County judge to deny her permission for the procedure.
In its first public ruling on a "judicial bypass," the justices ruled, 6-1, that Common Pleas Judge Philip Ignelzi should not have considered the fact that the girl didn't tell her mother when he denied her request in March 2010 for court permission under the state's Abortion Control Act.
That law states that if a pregnant woman under 18 doesn't get parental consent, a judge can authorize an abortion after determining she's "mature and capable of giving informed consent."
In writing for the majority, Justice Max Baer said "failure to seek parental consent cannot serve as the basis for the denial of judicial authorization for an abortion."
Ignelzi and the girl were not named in the opinion.
Baer wrote that the girl was three months shy of turning 18, 10 weeks pregnant, and a high school senior when she applied for judicial authorization. She told the county judge she was concerned her mother would throw her out if she learned of the pregnancy.
Ignelzi ruled the girl was not mature enough or capable of giving informed consent for several reasons, including that she didn't tell her mother, her average high school grades, her improper use of English during the hearing, her lack of work experience and her lack of prior significant decision-making.
The girl's attorneys, Richard Narvin and Howard Elbling, applauded the Supreme Court's ruling.
"The whole point of judicial bypass is to get an abortion without talking to parents," Narvin said.
Pro-life advocates were pleased with one portion of the ruling: The justices declined requests from the girl's attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union to impose a broad appellate review process on judicial bypass cases.
Typically, appellate courts review only narrow issues such as whether judges made errors of law. The ACLU wanted appellate courts to be able to make their own decision based on the facts.
"I think this will allow for more robust judicial bypass hearings, which I think was the intention of the General Assembly. Clearly, the Legislature had in mind there would be a real hearing on maturity and life experiences," said Randall Wenger, who represented the pro-life Pennsylvania Family Institute and Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, which filed briefs in the case.
"The court left open the possibility that with other evidence there may have been enough to deny the abortion. The Supreme Court gave a limitation, but it said there is room for trial courts to make their own determination."
Vic Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU, said he was pleased with the court's ruling on parental consent but argued that appellate courts should do a broad review because Constitutional rights are involved.
"My understanding is that the vast majority of these (judicial bypass abortions) are approved," Walczak said. "This just really smacks of the (Allegheny County) judge not agreeing with this woman's decision to have an abortion."
Justice Joan Orie Melvin dissented, saying she would have upheld the county judge. She acknowledged that the law does not require parental consent "but such a reading should not be equated with a complete prohibition of any consideration of the reasons for electing not to seek parental consent."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Brown downplays possible matchup against Seahawks’ Sherman
- Dubinsky suspended for cross-check on SidneyCrosby
- Downtown holiday parade festive, but turnout low
- Howard leads West Virginia over Iowa State
- WPIAL Class A notes: Return sparks Clairton for 2nd straight week
- Pitt notebook: Offensive struggles continue
- Barefoot toddlers found wandering in Uniontown Hospital lot
- Clairton captures 12th WPIAL football championship
- Puppy, pals come to rescue of Lower Burrell firefighters
- Former Pirates pitcher Happ agrees to $36 million, 3-year deal with Blue Jays
- Unabashed church pastors put politics front and center