Investigation shows counties frequently fail to provide mandated information about abortion access for minors
LINCOLN, Neb – Today the ACLU of Nebraska released the results of an investigation into county courthouse compliance with Nebraska policies for minors in seeking an abortion. Nebraska law requires a minor seeking an abortion to either have parental consent or obtain permission from a court if obtaining parental consent would be dangerous. The law also requires counties to display the forms a minor would need to petition the court for permission to have an abortion, be able to answer questions about the process and assist the public in completing the petition. In the ACLU’s investigation of 25 counties, they discovered that over half – 15 – were not following Nebraska law.
The ACLU is asking the administrator for state courts in Nebraska to issue guidance to county courts in Nebraska about how to follow the law.
“We all want our daughters to come to us if they get pregnant, and most do. But we all know that, unfortunately, some just can’t,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “Forcing a teen to leap through the hurdles of uninformed or unhelpful staff endangers her health and increases the risk of an illegal, unsafe abortion. Our state has a legal obligation to a young woman who is unable to discuss her pregnancy with her parents. County courthouses must be able to fulfil that obligation to provide information.”
The ACLU’s investigation also found that courthouse staff were dismissive or uninformed when asked about the forms, often directing the ACLU investigator to search for the form online. Studies show that over 90% of young women seeking an abortion involve their parents in the decision. Of those who don’t involve their parents, nearly a quarter report fear of abuse or being kicked out of their homes.
In 2011, the ACLU opposed a proposal in the Nebraska Legislature that changed the law from requiring a minor to let her parents know about an abortion to requiring a minor to obtain permission from her parents for an abortion. Making the judicial bypass process as accessible as possible is imperative, says the ACLU.
“Nebraska Lawmakers decided to go against the recommendations of medical experts and enact laws mandating parental involvement in a minor’s abortion decision,” said Miller. “This law already does nothing to help young women – the least the state of Nebraska can do is make it so a young woman who cannot talk to her parents about her pregnancy can pursue an abortion through a judicial bypass without paperwork as a hurdle. We expect county courthouses to fully comply with Nebraska law and make forms available. We will continue to work with our partners in Nebraska to ensure full compliance with the law and to ensure the judicial bypass process is as accessible as possible. We will also work to ensure young women in Nebraska know about their rights when it comes to abortions.”
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, hundreds of minors have an abortion in Nebraska annually. Data about use of the judicial bypass system is not publicly available.
Read more about laws restricting teenagers access to abortion: https://www.aclu.org/laws-restricting-teenagers-access-abortion