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World & Nation

Indiana Senate OKs abortion bill on parental notification

Pregnant minors would be unable to obtain an abortion without at least attempting to notify their parents under a measure that cleared the Indiana Senate on Tuesday.

The first-of-its-kind abortion measure would drastically change the state’s existing judicial waiver process, which allows someone under the age of 18 to pursue an abortion procedure with permission from the court system without notifying a parent or guardian.

It instead mandates that parents be served legal notice and have the opportunity to object in court — a move that supporters argue would strengthen parental rights.

But critics, including some Republicans, say allowing minors to have abortions without involving their parents is the entire point.

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In some cases, they argue, the pregnancy is a result of incest or rape. In others, minors could face physical harm if their parents were informed about the pregnancy.

“This is essentially and fundamentally going through, around and getting rid of the whole point of judicial bypass,” said Democratic state Sen. Karen Tallian. “It puts the parents back into the mix, when the whole purpose of the bypass was to keep them out of the mix.”

The measure cleared the Senate 36 to 13 on Tuesday, with four Republicans joining Democrats in opposing it. It now moves to the House for consideration.

Republican state Sen. Erin Houchin, the author, contends her proposal protects the judge’s ability to make a determination on the minor’s petition and would not give parents veto power.

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There’s nothing in the statute that prohibits them from being notified that a hearing is occurring, she said, and their presentation of evidence could give the judge more information to aid his decision.

As written now, notice would have to be served to a parent before a juvenile court hearing could occur. That notice could include registered or certified mail or other public means — like an advertisement placed in a newspaper.

The juvenile court could consider a petition after that notice is served, which would include an evidentiary hearing where parents could make arguments.

The measure would also give parents a path to legal recourse against individuals who aided their minor in obtaining an abortion without their consent.

Houchin and other antiabortion supporters say the proposal would rightfully involve parents in a process that could have a lasting effect on their child.

“I’ve heard some talk that this is a bill about women’s rights. This is a bill about parental rights,” Houchin said. “These are not women seeking abortions. They are children seeking abortions.”

Some discussion Tuesday centered on whether the bill would hold up in court, with some arguing the Supreme Court has previously agreed with parental involvement laws only if they include a confidential judicial bypass procedure.

Of the 36 states that require parental involvement and offer an alternative judicial bypass procedure for abortions, none mandate notifying parents that the minor is pursuing a bypass, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

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