Alabama court rules 12yo impregnated by relative can have abortion without parental consent
On Wednesday, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled in favor of a girl seeking a waiver from a state law that requires minors to obtain “the written consent of either parent or the legal guardian” before receiving an abortion.
The 12-year-old girl, only referred to as “anonymous” or “minor” in the opinion, was impregnated by an adult relative while she was living with her mother, stepfather, four siblings, and an uncle.
The relative who raped her was charged with statutory rape and the girl was removed from her home for the fifth time. She was placed in the custody of the Department of Human Resources (DHR) after the police were notified that her mother reportedly became physically abusive toward her upon learning of her daughter’s pregnancy.
The girl told her DHS caseworker that she wanted to end the pregnancy, and filed a petition with the juvenile court for a waiver. The court granted her a waiver on June 27, but a district attorney filed a notice of appeal the same day.
In 2014, Alabama lawmakers amended portions of the law to allow “the district attorney's office, and any guardian ad litem, or the parent, parents, or legal guardian of the minor” the right to appeal the court’s decision.
The district attorney challenged the court’s decision, arguing that the girl was “too immature to make an informed decision and that there is no evidence that the abortion would be in the minor's best interest.”
The district attorney added that the girl was too immature to understand the complications that could arise from having an abortion, and that she did not “understand that an abortion will end the life of the fetus.”
The court said that the girl went to two hospitals, saw an ultrasound, and was informed of her options of abortion or adoption, but still said that she wanted to end the pregnancy through abortion.
The appeals court cited the juvenile court, which found that the girl understood “the medical procedure of abortion and its consequences as much as any twelve-year-old can.”
The court also cited the DHS, which reported that the girl, who just ended the fifth grade, appeared to “interact at a normal sixth-grade level, and that no interactions had caused the caseworker concern about the minor's ability to communicate or understand information.”
At the time of the trial, the girl, who was approximately 13 weeks pregnant, testified that she was too young to have a child of her own, and said she did not want to place the baby up for adoption because she was “scared.”
The court ruled that the girl “presented probative evidence to the Court of her maturity and has demonstrated to the Court that she has the maturity and decision making capabilities typical of her age and abilities.”
The district attorney also argued that the “only circumstance” presented to the court regarding the girl’s best interest was her age, adding there was “no testimony offered to indicate that the pregnancy and/or delivery would present a health risk to the minor.”
The appeals court cited the juvenile court, which found that the abortion was in the best interest of the girl due to her age, the lack of familial support, and the fact that she became pregnant “by way of a criminal act perpetrated against her by a relative.”
The girl said that she did not want her mother to be part of the proceedings, or to have any input regarding her decision because they do not have a good relationship. The opinion stated that there were allegations that her mother was aware of the “repeated rape” and reacted violently toward the girl when she learned about the pregnancy.
The opinion also stated that the whereabouts of the girl’s father is not known, but they believe he was living in a Central American country.
“In this case, the minor is in the custody of DHR based on reports of physical abuse at the hands of her mother,” the opinion read, adding, “the minor does not know her biological father, this is the fifth time that the minor has been removed from her mother's custody, the minor has no familial support, and the pregnancy was a result of statutory rape by an adult relative of the minor that occurred while the minor was in her mother's custody. The minor consistently stated that she wanted an abortion, that she was too young to care for a child, that she was scared, and that she did not want to have a child.”