Getting a judges permission to have an abortion without telling your parents can be complicated. The process is slightly different in each state. The first step is to contact the clinic where you will have your abortion and ask them for information about getting a “judicial bypass.”
Below are some more tips from the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia (www.womenslawproject.org). Remember these tips are for teens in Pennsylvania. Your state might be slightly different. Start with calling a clinic that performs abortion.
call a lawyer who
will help you with the process. You have the right to a free lawyer appointed by
the court to help you get the judge’s approval for your abortion.
fill out the
application form for permission for an abortion. The clinic or the court should
provide you with the form. Once you have filed your form, you will have your
hearing before the judge very quickly, within three business days at the latest.
I really need a lawyer?
do not have to use a lawyer, but you may have a better chance of getting
judicial consent with a lawyer’s help. The lawyer will help you fill out and
file the application forms and find the right office in the courthouse. Your
lawyer will not judge you and will be on your side throughout the process. If
you decide not to use a lawyer, please get a counselor at your clinic to help
I have to pay the lawyer or the judge?
not. The hearing is free, and if you have [a lawyer] appointed for you by the
court, the lawyer’s services are free. Of course, you are also permitted to
hire your own lawyer for a fee.
happens at the hearing with the judge?
hearing is usually informal and is absolutely confidential. It is not a trial.
In some counties, it is held in the judge’s office (called “chambers”),
not in a courtroom. The judge usually wears a regular suit, and in many
counties, the judge sits with you and your lawyer around a desk or table. There
are no reporters, no jury, and no lawyer on the other side. The hearing
typically lasts a short time. The judge will not know your name and might use
your initials, first name, or a made-up name such as “Jane Doe,” or the
judge might call you “petitioner.”
will be at the hearing?
hearing is private. No one is allowed to attend except you, anyone you choose to
bring with you, your lawyer, the judge, and possibly the judge’s clerk or
the judge allowed to tell my parents?
No one, including the judge, is allowed to tell anyone about your pregnancy. The
initial application form may ask you for your initials and your parents’ names
and addresses, but this information must be kept completely confidential.
does the judge have to decide?
judge must answer one question: Is this young woman mature enough to make her
own decision? If the answer is yes, the judge must give you permission for the
abortion regardless of how he or she feels about it. If the judge decides that
you are not mature, the judge must then consider a second question: Would an
abortion be in this young woman’s best interests? If the answer is yes, the
judge must give you permission for the abortion regardless of his or her
kinds of questions will I have to answer?
judge may want to know that you understand the abortion procedure, that you have
thought carefully about your decision, and that no one is forcing you to get an
abortion. The judge may also want to know whether you have responsibilities at
home, school, or work (such as babysitting, caring for sick relatives, part-time
jobs, etc.) or plans for the future that show how mature you are.
long will it take the judge to decide?
judge may decide right after the hearing, but at the latest the judge must
decide within three business days after you file your application. “Business
days” do not include legal holidays and weekends. If the judge does not decide
within three business days, you have the right to a free, confidential, speedy
appeal to a higher court.
should I do if the judge rules in my favor?
judge will give you a piece of paper called an “Order”that gives you
permission to get an abortion. You must take this Order with you when you go for
the abortion, along with any other consent forms or identification required by
your abortion provider.
if I change my mind?
are always free to change your mind and decide you do not want an abortion. The
Order simply states that you may have the abortion if you want it; it does not
force you to get one.
can I do if the judge rules against me?
know of only one case in seven years in which a Pennsylvania judge denied a
bypass petition. Your lawyer can file an immediate appeal with the State
Superior Court, which must decide within five business days. If you do not yet
have a lawyer, you should get one now.
it legal for teenaged women to cross state lines to get an abortion?
Yes. However, if you are under 14 and if an adult takes you across Pennsylvania state lines for an abortion without your parent’s consent, the adult may risk a charge of interfering with the custody of a minor. Adults who are accompanying young women under 14 to out-of-state abortion providers should contact a lawyer.
Women’s Law Project
125 South Ninth Street, Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19107