The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has once again blocked a 2017 Indiana parental notification law – dealing with minors attempting to access abortion – from going into effect. In the process, the appeals court disagreed with its sister circuits in how to interpret last year’s Supreme Court abortion decision in a case from Louisiana, creating the very real possibility that this case will end up at the high court a second time.
Parental notification and/or consent laws are common – 37 states require parental involvement prior to a minor receiving an abortion. Indiana has a parental consent requirement, which contains a “judicial bypass” exception, meaning that if a minor can prove to a judge that she justifiably cannot approach her parents or that she is mature enough to make her own decision, the judge can allow the abortion without the parents’ consent.
In 2017 the Indiana legislature added a provision to its judicial bypass statute requiring that parents be notified of the court proceeding after the fact unless the judge also finds “such notice is not in the minor’s ‘best interests.’” That provision was blocked by a federal district judge before it went into effect, and the 7th Circuit agreed with that ruling. The case went up to the Supreme Court, which after its decision in a different abortion lawsuit, June Medical Services v. Russo, vacated the 7th Circuit’s decision in the Indiana situation and directed the 7th Circuit to re-examine its earlier decision in light of the Supreme Court’s holding.
Recently, in a 2-1 ruling, the 7th Circuit again upheld the lower court’s injunction against the Indiana law, and the majority and dissent disagreed on how the Supreme Court’s June Medical opinion should be interpreted and how it should be applied in this case.
Lawyer and blogger Ed Whelan has done a superb job of explaining the nuances of the 7th Circuit decision, but the fact that the lower courts are wrestling – and disagreeing with each other – over the current state of abortion jurisprudence must be laid at the feet of Chief Justice John Roberts. His widely debated concurring opinion in the June Medical decision put him – and the proper constitutional interpretation of abortion law – somewhere between the liberal justices and conservative justices on the high court.
That doesn’t help state legislatures much as they attempt to protect preborn babies and women from the ravages of abortion. Confusion only creates more lawsuits. Clarity is needed.
If this case returns to the Supreme Court, it must be noted that the philosophical composition of the court has changed since June Medical due to the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s possible that Barrett’s presence could change the result in the Indiana case, but that’s only speculation at the moment. Only time will tell, and we will be following this case is it proceeds through the federal courts.
The Indiana case raises an important issue that gets lost in the legal battles over abortion, and that has to do with families dealing with the news of an unexpected teen pregnancy. How should parents respond? Patrick Hill, MA, LPC, BCC, CCSAS, is a licensed counselor with Focus, and he spoke with The Daily Citizen on this topic and offered some advice for parents.
“To the parents who may have recently heard the words, ‘Mom and Dad, I’m pregnant,’ keep two things in mind: she is your daughter, and that won’t change,” Hill counsels. “God is on the throne, and He will see you through this. Keeping those two important facts in mind, be present for your daughter with love and support. She needs to know she’s not alone in this and that you will journey this unknown road together.”
For families dealing with this issue, Focus on the Family has information and resources that can help. You can also speak with a counselor. To request a conversation with Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), or complete our Counseling Consultation Request Form. Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor to return a call to you as soon as possible. The consultation is available at no cost to you due to generous donor support and will be with one of our licensed or pastoral counseling specialists.
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