Veronika Granado stood anxiously before the judge, knowing that she could be punished if she made a mistake.
The 17-year old had not committed any crime. She hadn’t filed a lawsuit. Granado was present in Texas that day to request permission to have an abortion.
She was one of thousands of teenagers who were faced with additional obstacles to legal abortion care. This is especially true if they are minorities or live in states that have severely restricted abortion access. For anyone under the age of 18, 38 states require parental consent. Nearly all of these states, including Texas, allow for an alternative to parental consent or notice.
However, Texas’s latest restrictions have made it almost impossible to request such requests. The process of going before a judge involves a sonogram and can take several weeks. Women are often well past the six week mark by then. These few avenues are being closed down as other states take advantage of the Texas law’s success and create their own restrictions.
Parents should be able to have input in medical decisions, according to parental consent advocates. Rosann Mariapuram, the executive director of Jane’s Due Process (the nation’s first and only organization that helps youths through the process of getting to a judge), said teens who seek abortions face abuse or threats from homelessness if their parents or guardians tell them they are pregnant. About 350 women are served each year by them in Texas. About 10% of them are in foster care, and 80% are youths of colour.
They are usually older than six weeks by the time they first start to come in. It is unlikely that young girls who have not had their period in a while will be able to track it. The irregular period is more common in athletes. Sometimes, girls who use birth control may experience spotting. This can be mistaken for a period. These factors can often cause minors, as well as adults to miss signs of pregnancy.
Kenzie Reynolds was just 17 years old when she discovered she was pregnant. She described her toxic relationship as controlling and toxic. She couldn’t tell her family that she was pregnant or wanted to have an abortion, because they were devout Christians, she said. She had tried to tell her mother before that she wanted to use birth control. But her mom refused to have the conversation.
Jane’s Due Process was found by her, but she would need to wait four weeks for a judge to hear her case.
She said, “The worst thing about the whole thing was how horrible I felt and how isolated it made me feel.”
One month later, she appeared before the judge to tell him about her toxic relationship and her terror.
The judge however denied the request.
She said, “He walked past me like he wasn’t even here.” “I felt like I wasn’t recognized as a person by him.”
She could have appealed but she was only 10 weeks pregnant at the time, too late for an abortion pill and the appeal was still uncertain. Instead, she connected to Lilith Fund for a flight from New Mexico, where she received the procedure. She returned the same day.
Reynolds shared her story through WeTestify. This is a group that represents people who have experienced abortions. Reynolds, now 21, was able to end her relationship with her husband, which she would not have been able if they had a child. She is now able to go to college.
Mariappuram stated that calls to the group are already down and that they have received three times as many requests for birth control services.
Each state has its own rules regarding how teens can bypass consenting to be ruled by a judge. According to the Guttmacher Institute which supports reproductive rights, fifteen states require judges to use “clear evidence” to determine if a teenager is competent and that abortion is in their best interests. Some states require that judges make a decision within 48-hours, while others take several days.
She said that judges have complete discretion and can ask any question they wish. Mariappuram stated that judges sometimes ask inquisitive questions, such as about the number of partners they have.
She stated that she believes it is traumatic to send someone to court because they are making them believe they have broken the law.
Some states are reviewing their policies. Massachusetts has lowered the age of parental consent to 16 years. Illinois lawmakers supporting abortion rights are pushing for the repeal of a parental notification law to guarantee that people have safe access to abortion services.
Cathi Herrod of Center for Arizona Policy, who advocates for restrictions on abortion, stated that abortion is a life-changing procedure and parents should be able to have input. Despite her opposition to the bypass consent option, she claims that courts have upheld it repeatedly.
Herrod stated, “Parents shouldn’t be denied the power to supervise that decision by their child,” “A young girl should have the support of her parents when making this decision.”
Granado’s decision to end her unplanned pregnancy was not difficult. Her mother had given birth to her when she was 17. She was aware of how difficult it would be to be a teenage mom. She wanted to be the first person in her family to graduate college.
She was afraid her mom would make her leave if she learned about her pregnancy and her decision to have an abortion. Jane’s Due Process was something she found while researching her options. She met with an attorney and received the required sonogram.
Granado was one of four people who arrived in a small room at a Rio Grande Valley courthouse. The judge, an older Hispanic male, saw her standing in front of him. He wanted to know why her parents were not able to be present, what she planned for the future, and why they couldn’t have this child.
“Basically, my life was in his hands,” Granado stated.
He said that abortion was against his religious beliefs, but he needed to be impartial as a judge.
He accepted the request. She ended her pregnancy a week and a quarter later.