(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
In the past three years, judges in Arizona have approved nearly three out of every four abortions requested by minors without parental consent, recently released court records show.
The records, which are released by the Administrative Office of the Courts to the Arizona Department of Health Services every year, show that since 2010, state judges have granted 95 out of 128 petitions by minors to receive abortions without consent from their parents. It is state law to have parental consent if a minor is seeking an abortion, but the minor may subvert the parental consent requirement by going to court for approval.
Helena Silverstein, a professor at Lafayette College who specializes in abortion politics, told the Arizona-Capitol Times that it is not uncommon for a minor to receive court approval for an abortion if they have been dedicated enough to go through the court process. "In every state I have studied, or other people have studied, the pattern is the same, and the pattern is that a minor who makes her way to a court and gets before a judge to petition for a bypass is very likely to get her petition granted."
The recent figures, which were published this month by the Health Department, show that the state has seen an overall drop in abortions, with a 7.4 percent decline in total abortions from 2011 to 2012. Despite this figure, there has also been an increase in court-approved abortion petitions, rising from 32 in 2011 to 42 in 2012. Little more is known about the circumstances surrounding each abortion petition, as court proceedings are held privately for minor confidentiality.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 38 states require parental involvement in a minor's decision to have an abortion. All but one of these states allow for alternative process for minors seeking abortions, including a judicial bypass procedure which allows the minor to gain approval from the court.
Arizona's statute requiring parental consent for a minor's abortion was initially passed in 2001. The law was temporarily stayed pending a constitutional challenge, and then enacted in 2003 after it was found constitutional in the Planned Parenthood v. Lawall lawsuit.
More recently in July, the Supreme Court of Illinois voted unanimously to enact the state's 1995 parental notification law after 18 years of legal challenges. The law requires doctors in the state to notify the parents of a minor 17 years or younger if she plans to have an abortion. Like Arizona, this requirement can be waived by a judge.
The justices wrote in their opinion for the ruling that although a minor's medical privacy should be respected, it is not unreasonable for the minor's parent to be notified of their daughter's intended abortion.
"It's a good day for Illinois parents," Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for Thomas More Society, previously told The Christian Post in July. "A lot of Illinois parents are breathing a sigh of relief today that they will be told before their children are taken for abortions."