Youth Abortion Rights
December 15, 2021
In October 2021, New Orleans Juvenile Court Judge Tammy Stewart granted a Louisiana teenager’s request to be allowed to have an abortion. As Caroline Reilly writes, with the help of Louisiana Right to Life, her mother then sued the State of Louisiana, “painting the judicial bypass process as a nefarious loophole to parental involvement.”
Louisiana’s judicial bypass law, which permits young people like this teenager to obtain a judge’s permission to have an abortion in lieu of a parent’s permission, is constitutional. Yet, as Reilly notes, “the Louisiana mother’s challenge was enough for a judge to grant a temporary restraining order, blocking all judicial bypasses in the state.” Thankfully, a challenge to the restraining order by Lift Louisiana successfully led the court to lift the order, after which the mother agreed to drop her lawsuit.
This case highlights the extreme risks of parental permission requirements and the anti-choice movement’s relentless attempts to restrict abortions for everyone in any way possible. Parental permission requirements are cruel and unconscionable attempts to control young people’s autonomy. And the judicial bypass alternative available to some youth is not, as “bypass” might suggest, a quick and simple workaround. Rather, it is an “arduous, complicated, and often traumatizing process for young people who likely are already facing significant adversity.” Consider this teenager’s experience: Her relationship with her mother prevented her from being able to have parental support for her needs. She had to endure a difficult-to-navigate legal process to get permission to take care of herself. She won but her victory was short lived, as her mother persuaded a different court to interfere. She had to live with the knowledge that the action she started for the sake of taking care of herself then caused all judicial bypasses to be halted, affecting an unknown number of other young people. Then, with the help of a nonprofit organization, she was able to gain control of her body and health again. How much time had passed, during which she knew her pregnancy was developing and there was nothing she could do about it? Such interference with a young person’s ability to take care of themselves is unconscionable.
We are relieved that the court lifted the temporary restraining order blocking all judicial bypasses in Louisiana. We also hope that all states drop parental permission requirements, thus ending the need for judicial bypass. Young people have a fundamental human right to sexual freedom, a right that promotes and protects their autonomy, including their choice to have an abortion.