Nebraska court denies teenager access to an abortion

Teenager prevented from terminating her pregnancy because she was dependent on her foster parents

A court in Nebreaska denied a teenager access to an abortion, after deciding she was too immature to opt for a termination without the consent of her foster parents.

The court opinion documenting the case, which began in 2012, was released last week and detailed how the then 15 year-old had applied to a judge in May for a document that would permit an abortion without parental consent.

The now 16-year-old applied for the document when she was ten weeks pregnant.

She cited her reasons for wanting to terminate the pregnancy as being financially unable to support a child and being ill-equipped to “be the right mom [sic] that [she] would like to be right now.”

The girl had been removed from her parents care and placed into a foster home in February, the court document stated. In May, the court made her a ward of the state, citing abuse and neglecting, according to ABC News.

The court heard the teenager was worried her foster parents would not consent to her abortion because of their strong religious beliefs.

The judge then asked her if she understood an abortion would terminate the foetus, according to the court document, and whether she would “rather do that than to risk problems with the foster care people.”

Despite answering “yes” to both questions, the court ruled the teenager was not mature enough to make the decision to terminate the foetus because she was financially dependent on her foster carers and had never lived alone.        

The decision was appealed in July but the Supreme Court also declined to sign the consent waiver, which would have allowed her to have an abortion without the consent of her foster parents. 

The girl's case was particularly unique as she applied for the consent waiver in the same month she was made a ward of the state. As a ward, the state's policy is not to grant or withhold abortion consent to its wards, leaving the decision up to the woman.

State law, however, states that a pregnant woman below the age of 18 must have written consent from a parent or guardian before she can obtain an abortion. A foster parent is not considered to be the same as a legal guardian and therefore cannot consent.

One dissenting judge said the girl was "in a legal limbo, a quandary of the legislature's making," ABC News reported.

Catherine Mahern, the solicitor representing the girl said: “It's OK for her to relinquish her child for adoption. She doesn't need a court to determine the underlying psychological impact or emotional impact of giving up a child, which I think is significant.

“The waiver doesn't apply to this young lady, because she doesn't have parents."

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