House OKs changes in teen abortion consent laws - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

House OKs changes in teen abortion consent laws

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Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2008 10:13 pm | Updated: 10:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A divided state House approved changes in state laws dealing with when minors can get an abortion without parental consent - changes foes said will throw new roadblocks in the path of pregnant teens. But that may depend on how some of the words would be interpreted.

Proponents of HB2263 say they are simply codifying standards the state Court of Appeals spelled out five years ago when deciding what factors a judge may consider in determining whether a minor is mature enough to decide to terminate a pregnancy without parental consent.

The process, known as "judicial bypass," is the only recognized exception to current laws that require a minor have the consent of at least one parent to undergo an abortion.

Central to the debate is what restrictions can - and cannot - be placed on minors.

Federal courts have ruled states cannot impose an absolute ban on minors having an abortion absent parental consent.

That has left state lawmakers and state courts trying to balance the rights of the minor with the general premise that minors lack maturity to consent to medical procedures.

In a precedent-setting ruling in 2003, the Arizona Court of Appeals said a minor wanting to avoid telling a parent must prove to a judge by clear and convincing evidence that she has the "maturity" to make that decision.

But because the law did not define what that means, the appellate judges said that can be measured by examining the girl's experience, perspective and judgment.

That ruling then set forth factors a trial judge could consider in determining each of those factors.

Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Gilbert, said his legislation simply puts those factors into statute. He said that gives future judges clear guidance from the Legislature what may be considered.

But Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, insisted that HB2263 tightens existing standards.

Sinema relies on a provision in the legislation that says a pregnant minor must not only prove her maturity to make the decision on her own but also spells out that maturity must be shown "based on her experience level, perspective and judgment." Sinema, a lawyer, said the 2003 ruling leaves the question of what factors constitute maturity to each trial judge.

She pointed out the appellate judges said "maturity may be measured by examining the minor's experience, perspective and judgment."

"This legislation makes it even more difficult for young women to solve this very difficult question and this very serious burden that they are facing," she said.

Tuesday's 36-24 vote sends the measure to the Senate.

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