For many teens, getting a safe abortion is an onerous process. Even with a parent involved every step of the way, numerous roadblocks to access, including waiting periods, mean the actual abortion will take place later in pregnancy, and inevitably be more costly. Without a parent or legal guardian able to assist, relying on the judicial bypass process can be hit and miss, often depending on where a teen lives and what judge is put in charge of the case.
In Wisconsin, one teen was subject to the biases of her personal public defender. The teen, who had already decided she wanted to terminate the pregnancy and whose legal guardian approved of the decision, sought a judicial bypass solely because her grandmother—her legal guardian—was too ill to actually accompany her to get the abortion. The public defender assigned to the case gave one last order to the teen.
First she had to go get “counseling” from a crisis pregnancy center.
Tia’s social worker was taken aback when she learned of the referral to Care Net, a faith-based crisis pregnancy center that opposes abortion.
“I was alarmed at the idea that she was being sent to an anti-choice agency,” says the social worker, who also requested anonymity to protect the student’s identity.
The social worker says she asked Tia whether she was familiar with the agency. Tia was not. When Tia later asked [her public defender Nancy Vue] if she knew Care Net was an anti-abortion group, Vue said she did, but said it offers resources and options to minors.
Tia says that made her angry. “I explained to her that I have my options and I’m ready to see the judge. I’ve talked to many people about this. I’ve had my counseling done.”
Vue did not return calls for comment. But Dee Dee Watson, the regional attorney manager for the Office of State Public Defender, says that state statute requires minors to be counseled on the risks and consequences of abortion and the risks and consequences of carrying the pregnancy to term before obtaining a judicial waiver.
According to Watson, Planned Parenthood used to offer the counseling but no longer did, an assertion that the provider says is just not true.
The state of Wisconsin has been slowly developing a cozy relationship with the crisis pregnancy center since anti-choice Governor Scott Walker was elected, a relationship that has made many who are concerned about its religious doctrines being supported by the state government very uncomfortable. Although the referral by the public defender is questionable, what should be truly alarming is that it is the state government that is wrongfully asserting that Planned Parenthood is not a source of counseling, leaving such an opening for Care Net, which provides inaccurate information, in the first place.