The Alabama state legislature gave final approval on Thursday, before closing out its session, to a bill that would present additional barriers to minors seeking abortion care.
Minors under the age of 18 already must have parental consent before obtaining an abortion in Alabama, but HB 494 adds more hurdles to that process. Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, told RH Reality Check this week that the bill makes it “practically impossible” for a minor to get a judicial bypass to avoid telling her parents, and is an “added barrier” even for those who have supportive parents.
“We are disappointed with passage of the bill. It creates a lot of unnecessary red tape and, if a young woman seeks a judicial bypass, she will still find herself being put on trial as if she is a criminal,” Watson said Thursday.
If a minor’s parent is willing to consent to the procedure, it is no longer sufficient for the parent to sign a consent form; now the parent must do so in the presence of the physician who will perform the procedure. The individual must also prove his or her parentage by presenting a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, which many families do not have on hand, and which takes additional time and expense to procure.
If a minor does not wish to tell her parents about the procedure, she is no longer guaranteed confidentiality when seeking a court order from a judge, and she must do so in her home county, where she may know people in the courtroom if she lives in a small town. She must also explain to the court why she cannot tell her parents, prove her “understanding of life” and her maturity (her ability to navigate a complex legal system is not sufficient evidence on its own), and demonstrate that she has been “counseled by a qualified person as to the alternatives to abortion.”
HB 494 was one of four anti-choice bills introduced in February that moved quickly through the legislature. Another one of those bills, extending the waiting period for having an abortion from 24 to 48 hours, passed on Wednesday. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley is expected to sign both bills.
An extreme ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (which is usually around six weeks) did not reach the senate floor, nor did a bill that would have required women with doomed pregnancies to hear about perinatal hospice services that do not exist in Alabama.