Nebraska Supreme Court Rules 16-Year-Old not Mature Enough for an Abortion, but Mature Enough to become a Mother

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Nebraska’s highest court has upheld a lower court decision rejecting a 16-year-old foster child’s request to waive parental consent to get an abortion, saying the girl was not mature enough to terminate her pregnancy.


The girl, whose identity was not revealed because she is a minor, has lived in a foster home since the state determined that she was physically abused and neglected by her biological parents.


Under state law, minors must obtain written consent by a parent or guardian before having an abortion. There are exceptions, but those are limited to cases of abuse by the parent or guardian, medical emergencies, and instances in which the minor is mature and well-informed enough to decide whether to have an abortion.


The girl first brought her case to a Douglas County court, where she told District Judge Peter Bataillon that she would not be able to financially support a child. She also testified that she feared losing her home if her foster parents, who are religious, learned of the pregnancy.


Bataillon rejected the girl’s request to waive the parental consent requirement, saying she would have to ask her foster parents for permission. The judge’s ruling seemed to conflict with state law that says the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is considered the guardian of wards.


The judge also ruled that the girl did not demonstrate sufficient maturity to make the decision to seek an abortion.


The girl’s attorney, Catherine Mahern, appealed the ruling to the Nebraska Supreme Court, arguing Bataillon failed to recognize the exception for abuse in Nebraska’s parental consent law.


But in a 5-2 decision, the state Supreme Court sided with Bataillon.


Mahern also said Bataillon should have recused himself because he was not impartial, as evidenced by his asking the girl if she knew that, “When you have the abortion, it’s going to kill the child inside you.”


“Probably the most disturbing aspect of this case was the judge’s treatment of this young lady, referring to killing her baby,” Mahern told the Associated Press. “Who talks to a distressed 16-year-old girl like that?”


The AP reported that court records found online indicated a Peter Bataillon served in the 1980s on a committee for Metro Right to Life, an Omaha anti-abortion group. But it was unclear if it was the same Bataillon as the judge.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Neb. High Court Nixes Teen's Request for Abortion (by Margery Beck, Associated Press)

Nebraska Advance Sheets (Nebraska Supreme Court) (pdf)

Teen Pregnancy Rate Lowest in At Least 90 Years (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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