Parental Consent and Notification Laws in the Abortion Context: Rejecting the "Maturity" Standard in Judicial Bypass Proceedings


The choice to become a parent, to give a baby up for adoption, or to terminate a pregnancy presents a life-altering decision for a minor. The majority of states require minors to engage their parents or legal guardians in their choice to obtain an abortion, but not in decisions to give their babies up for adoption or to become parents. Though the Supreme Court has held that parental consent and notification laws do not infringe on a minor's constitutional rights if judicial bypass options are available, the reality of these judicial proceedings demonstrates a biased and unworkable legal avenue. Even the Supreme Court acknowledges the difficulty in measuring "maturity," but has continued to affirm "maturity" as the standard judges should use when evaluating minor's petitions.

Consequently, judges' decisions are left largely to their own discretion and have resulted in inconsistent determinations of "maturity." Due to the significant risk of poverty and child abuse associated with teenage parenting, judicial bypass proceedings should be objective and look out for the best of the minor. Not only must minors navigate the cumbersome process of appearing before a judge to obtain a judicial waiver, they may encounter a judge whose personal beliefs have sealed their fate before they have even had their day in court. Thus, the danger of judicial bias, permitted through the unworkable definition of "maturity," must be eliminated from judicial bypass proceedings to protect the reproductive choices of pregnant minors.


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Date of this Version

August 2006