Federal judge overturns Alabama law requiring parental consent for minors seeking an abortion

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)Pro-choice protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 2, 2016.

A federal judge has overturned parts of an Alabama law that would have required minors who are seeking abortions to obtain their parent's permission.

Minors in Alabama are required to obtain parental consent before an abortion, but since 1987, the state has allowed underage pregnant women to obtain a court order to bypass the requirement.

The hearings would typically involve only the judge, the minor and her lawyer, but amendments introduced in 2014 expanded the number of people involved in the proceedings, according to NPR. The amended law requires the district attorney to be involved, and the minor's parents or guardians can also take part if they learn of the hearing.

The amendments also allowed the court to appoint a legal representative for the interest of the unborn child. Additionally, it also allowed prosecutors to object to the wishes of the pregnant minor and call witnesses.

On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker struck down parts of the law, claiming that the provisions put an undue burden on young girls seeking abortions.

The judge argued that the provisions "violate a pregnant minor's long-established constitutional right to seek a judicial bypass to a state's parental consent law without the participation of her parent, parents, or legal guardian ... and her right to an anonymous judicial bypass hearing."

The lawsuit challenging the measure was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama in 2014 on behalf of the Montgomery abortion clinic Reproductive Health Services. The organization claimed that the legislation violates the rights of young girls to confidential proceedings.

"Today's ruling is a victory for women, for young people, and for reproductive health in Alabama," said Andrew Beck, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project.

"By undermining their confidentiality, this law put teenagers participating in the judicial bypass process in real danger," he added.

The State of Alabama argued that the measure would allow a meaningful inquiry to assess a minor's maturity while providing a "confidential, and expeditious option for a teenager who seeks an abortion without parental consent."

Walker pointed to the case of a 12-year-old pregnant girl, who sought an abortion after she was raped by a relative. The abortion was approved by a family court judge on June 27, but the district attorney appealed the decision on the grounds the fifth grader was not mature enough to make an informed decision. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled in favor of the minor on July 12.

The Alabama attorney general's office stated that it is reviewing the federal judge's decision.

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