Nebraska's high court has published a public opinion ruling that a 16-year-old foster child seeking an abortion was not sufficiently mature to make an independent decision to have the procedure. The girl was requesting that the court waive the state requirement of parental consent for a minor's abortion because she did not think her foster parents would approve of the procedure.
Nebraska's Supreme Court made a split 5-2 ruling earlier this summer that the 16-year-old foster child, who is identified in court documents only as "Anonymous 5," was not mature enough to make the personal decision to abort her fetus that was 10-weeks old when she first applied for the court waiver in May. Although the Supreme Court made its decision earlier this past summer, it did not issue a public opinion until last week.
The court found that the minor "failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that she is sufficiently mature and well informed." Specifically, the court determined that she was too immature to decide on the procedure because she continued to be dependent on her foster parents, did not have an employment history, and had never lived on her own.
The minor initially applied for a court-approved waiver to have an abortion in May, saying in court documents that she did not think her foster parents would give her consent to have the procedure due to their religious beliefs. She also stated in the court documents that she could not financially support the child. In February, the girl became a ward of the state after her biological parents' parental rights were terminated, as they had been cited for abuse and neglect toward their daughter.
Nebraska law requires girls 17 or younger to receive notarized, written consent from a parent or guardian in order to have an abortion. There are three exceptions to this law, one being if the girl can prove she is currently suffering abuse or neglect in her home, or if she can prove to the judge that she is "both sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion." The last exception is in the situation of a medical emergency.
Judge Peter Bataillon in July ruled the girl was too immature to make the decision regarding an abortion. The minor's lawyers appealed the ruling earlier in the summer and the state's Supreme Court came to the same decision in an expedited process.
Justice William Connolly, one of the Supreme Court's dissenting judges along with Justice Michael McCormack, noted in his opinion that he believed the girl was in "legal limbo," because she could not prove she was currently suffering abuse from her biological parents, nor could she prove she was sufficiently mature to decide on an abortion independently.
"She is in a legal limbo, a quandary of the legislature's making," Judge William Connolly wrote in a dissenting opinion released last Friday, as reported by ABC News. "The Legislature has assumed under [the law] that all minors will have a parent or guardian who can give consent," Connolly added. "As this case illustrates, however, that is not always true."