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Lawsuit Challenges Changes to Ala. Parental Involvement Requirements

Lawsuit Challenges Changes to Ala. Parental Involvement Requirements

October 3, 2014 — The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law (HB 494) that modifies parental involvement requirements for minors seeking abortions, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Rawls, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).

Details of Law

The challenged law requires parents to provide a minor's certified birth certificate and prohibits "hearsay" in a minor's testimony if she seeks judicial bypass from the parental consent requirement, meaning that a minor could not tell the judge that her parents threatened abuse. In addition, parents accused of abuse are permitted to attend the hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/4). The law also allows a district attorney to be involved in the hearing, allows a judge to appoint an attorney to represent the "interests" of the fetus, and allows the attorney and the DA to subpoena witnesses for the hearing.

Lawsuit Details

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on behalf of Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery, Ala., argues that the law creates significant barriers for minors who cannot safely obtain parental consent for an abortion because of parental abuse or neglect. In addition, the suit contends that the law goes beyond any other state's abortion restrictions for minors.

Reaction

ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson said that the law "aims to shame a young woman into not having an abortion."

Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement, "Forcing a teen to go on trial to get an abortion doesn't make her any safer and doesn't bring families together. It just puts her at risk and could lead her to seek an illegal, unsafe abortion. None of us want that."

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) said his office is reviewing the lawsuit (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).