Changes to parental consent for abortions proposed

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony March 9 on a bill that would amend parental notification requirements.

LB690, introduced by Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, would amend parental notification requirements for an abortion to require notarized written consent from a pregnant patient younger than 18 and her parent or legal guardian before obtaining an abortion. Currently, a notice must be made by registered or certified mail addressed to the minor’s parent with restricted delivery and a requested return receipt.

If the minor is a victim of abuse by the parent, a physician could accept notarized written consent from a sibling at least 21 years of age, stepparent or grandparent. An unauthorized person providing consent would be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor. The bill also would permit an attending physician to perform an abortion without parental consent if a medical emergency exists and there is insufficient time to obtain the required consent.

Under the bill, a minor could not be forced to obtain an abortion and would be deemed emancipated to receive public-assistance benefits if denied financial support by her parents, guardians, or custodians for refusing an abortion. Such benefits could not be used for an abortion.

Brasch said she does not want young women who seek abortions to face their decision alone.

“The issue here is not whether you are for or against abortion,” Brasch said. “I wholeheartedly believe requiring parental consent for an abortion is the best option for young women’s safety, well-being and peace of mind.”

Daniel McConchie, representing Americans United for Life, testified in support of the bill, saying 16 percent of Nebraska women who receive abortions are under the age of 19.

“The medical, emotional and psychological consequences [from abortions] are serious and can be long lasting,” he said. “Especially when patients are not yet mature.”

Leah Bernhardson, a minor who testified in support of the bill, said parental consent was required to have her ears pierced.

“Parental consent is necessary even when relatively minor procedures are performed, yet the same standard does not apply to abortion,” Bernhardson said. “At barely 18, I see parental consent for this type of procedure as extremely important for me and my peers.”

Lincoln attorney Sue Ellen Wall testified in opposition to the bill, saying it is unnecessary. A minor who is concerned about receiving parental consent already can apply for a judicial bypass. Further, she said, the number of applicants to receive a judicial bypass has dropped significantly in recent years.

The system should be left as it is because it works and serves young women’s needs, Wall said.

Tracy Durbin, of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, also opposed the bill, saying approximately 90 percent of teenage girls who seek abortion care do so with parental involvement. The girls whose parents are not involved usually are victims of abuse, incest or rape, she said.

Durbin said the bill would be “ineffective” and “cruel” to young women who do not have stable relationships with their parents.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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