PA Supreme Court Upholds Respect for Parental Consent

Just before Christmas of 2010, the Independence Law Center filed an amici brief on behalf of the Pa. Family Institute, the Pa. Pro-Life Federation, the Pa. Catholic Conference, and about 60 state legislators in a case called In the Interest of Jane Doe, which involved a minor seeking an abortion. State law requires a minor to get a court order (called a judicial bypass) prior to having an abortion unless one of the child’s parents agrees to the abortion. Up until now, our courts have routinely granted these bypasses. However, this judicial bypass procedure was not designed to be a rubber stamp. Instead, a court is to give a bypass only when the child shows the maturity necessary to make the choice or if, in the words of Pennsylvania law, the abortion is somehow deemed to be in the child’s “best interest.”

A judge in Allegheny County denied a judicial bypass. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court took the case even though the child tragically had the abortion anyway. Because denials are so rare, the Supreme Court wanted to issue a decision to give direction to appellate courts reviewing such denials. This appears to be only the second denial appealed in this state and the first appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in more than two decades.

We are pleased to announce that the Court provided the direction that we requested in our amici (“friend of the court”) brief. Judges are now given wide latitude in their investigation of the maturity of a minor. This will hopefully encourage more judges to conduct robust hearings —hearings that will ultimately protect the life of the unborn — and respect parental authority. We are grateful to God for one more win in our battle to protect the life of every unborn child.