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AUL Statement on Parental Consent

AUL Statement on Parental Consent

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Published by: jeff_quinton5197 on May 03, 2011
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 Americans United for Life Statement on LD 1457 Page
Statement of Americans United for Lifebefore the Maine Joint Standing Committee on JudiciaryOnLD 1457: An Act To Strengthen the Consent Laws for AbortionsPerformed on Minors and Incapacitated Persons
Americans United for Life (AUL) is a national public interest law firm with a practice in abortion and bioethics law. AUL attorneys are experts on constitutionallaw and abortion jurisprudence, including the constitutionality of laws relating to parental involvement in the abortion decisions of minors.After thoroughly reviewing LD 1457 which mandates parental consent before aminor may obtain an abortion,
AUL appreciates this opportunity to submit astatement comparing LD 1457 to 22 M.R.S. 1597-A, attesting to theconstitutionality of LD 1457, and explaining the need for this legislation.
Comparison of LD 1457 and Current Law.A.
LD 1457.
LD 1457 would require minors in the State of Maine to obtain parental consent before an abortion, with exceptions. The bill provides that unless the requirementsfor certain exceptions are met, “if a pregnant woman is a minor or is anincapacitated person, a physician may not perform an abortion upon her unless: Inthe case of a minor, the physician performing the abortion first obtains thenotarized written consent of the minor and one of her parents or her legal guardian. . . or In the case of an incapacitated person, the physician performing theabortion first obtains the notarized written consent of her legal guardian. . . .”
LD 1457 applies to both minors and incapacitated persons. While this testimony primarilyaddresses the need for parental consent for minors, many of the same principles support therequirement of guardian consent for incapacitated persons.
 Americans United for Life Statement on LD 1457 Page
The bill provides an exception to the consent requirement when there is a “medicalemergency” and “there is insufficient time to obtain the required consent.”“Medical emergency” is defined as:a condition that, on the basis of a physician’s good faith clinical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant womanas to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversibleimpairment of a major bodily function.The bill also allows “alternate consent” from “a brother or sister who is at least21years of age or from a stepparent or grandparent specified by the minor or incapacitated person” if the “pregnant minor or incapacitated person declares in asigned written statement that she is a victim of sexual abuse, neglect or physicalabuse by either of her parents or her legal guardian.”Finally, LD 1457 provides an exception to the consent requirement in the eventthat a minor or incapacitated person obtains a court order consenting to anabortion. The bill details the procedure by which such an order may be requested,and designates when a court should grant a request for such an order.LD 1457 prohibits a parent, guardian, or other person from coercing a minor or incapacitated person to obtain an abortion. Further, a minor or incapacitated person denied financial support by her parent or guardian because of her refusal tohave an abortion is deemed emancipated for the purposes of eligibility for public-assistance benefits.
Current Maine Law: 22 M.R.S. 1597-A.
Current Maine law provides four avenues for a minor to obtain an abortion
 the consent of one of her parents or her guardian: (1) An alternate “adult familymember” may consent to her abortion; (2) The “attending physician” (abortion provider) may secure the “informed written consent” of the minor and determinethat she is “mentally and physically competent to give consent;” (3) the “attending physician” (abortion provider) may receive and make part of the medical recordthe “informed written consent” of the minor and the “written verification of receiving information and counseling” described by the law, or; (4) a probate court
 Americans United for Life Statement on LD 1457 Page
or district court may issue an order granting a minor the right to consent or directlyconsenting to the minor’s abortion.Each of these avenues for avoiding parental consent is problematic, as detailed below.
The alternate “adult family member”
An alternate “adult family member” should not be permitted to consent to aminor’s abortion absent a history of abuse by one of the minor’s parents or guardians. The parent-child relationship is a unique familial relationship. Asdiscussed in more detail in Part III below, parents usually possess informationessential to a physician’s exercise of his or her best medical judgment concerningtheir daughter. Further, parents who are aware that their daughter has had anabortion are generally better equipped to ensure that she receives sufficient follow-up care.The term “adult family member,” in contrast, will encapsulate adults who havelittle or no involvement in the life of a minor. A minor’s consenting “adult familymember” could be a distant relative who will be absent from assisting a minor inthe event she has post-abortive complications. Further, the “adult family member”may be a perpetrator of sexual abuse who impregnated the minor.For these reasons, LD 1457 would change Maine law to ensure that, in mostcircumstances, only a parent or guardian is given the right to consent to a minor’sabortion. Recognizing that minors are sometimes the victims of abuse by parentsor guardians, LD 1457 provides for alternate consent from an adult sibling,stepparent, or grandparent (alternate family members who are the most likely to beclose to the minor) if the minor states in writing that she is the victim of abuse byeither of her parents or her legal guardian. Further, a minor may obtain a judicial bypass of the consent requirement if she can demonstrate that (1) she is bothsufficiently mature and well-informed to make an abortion decision, or (2)involving her parents is not in her best interest.

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