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Indiana House approves abortion parental notification bill

April 4, 2017

The Indiana House on Tuesday approved a bill requiring parental notification in some cases when a minor seeks an abortion without parental consent, despite disagreement between lawmakers over when a parent would or would not receive notification.

The current version of the measure preserves a minor's ability to ask a judge for permission to get an abortion without involving a parent or guardian. It adds that if a judge grants it, he or she must also consider whether it's in the minor's best interest not to inform the parent. But it's unclear about whether parents would be notified if the judge denies the minor's request for an abortion.

In response to questions, Rep. Peggy Mayfield, the Senate bill's sponsor in the House, said she didn't think parents would be notified in such cases.

Other Republicans who followed the Martinsville lawmaker argued notifications would—and should—happen in either case.

"In that situation ... a judge has decided that a young girl is not mature enough to make this decision," said Rep. Thomas Washburne, R-Inglefield. "And in that situation, then the notification would take place to the parents."

Lawmakers began discussing the bill Monday night but it was abruptly pulled by House Speaker Brian Bosma "to be sure that we all understand what we're voting on," he said.

When it was brought back for a vote Tuesday morning, Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, said he read the bill as saying that when a judge denies a request, then parents would be notified their daughter had "been there, asking for consent." He then asked Mayfield if she agreed.

"I don't think it does that," she responded.

Washburne and Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Indianapolis, agreed with DeLaney's reading.

"If the judge says ... 'No, I don't think you're mature enough,' — why does it not fall back to that parent to have notification?" Lehman asked.

Opponents argued the state ought not to interfere in the family and asked for a year off from passing contentious abortion bills. A federal judge on Monday blocked a state requirement for women to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before having an abortion.

The House approved the parental notification measure in a 75-23 vote, despite the confusion over its effect. Seven Democrats voted in favor, while one Republican voted against it.

The original bill by Sen. Erin Houchin, which cleared the Senate in February, would have required pregnant minors to at least attempt to notify their parents before an abortion. It mandated that parents be served legal notice when their child pursued a judicial bypass—and provided a chance to object to the abortion in court.

Many opponents argued the Salem Republican's bill would be found unconstitutional if enacted because it removed the confidentiality component of the bypass.

Heavy amendments in the House Public Policy Committee stripped that provision from Houchin's bill, instead adding in language that required a judge to consider whether it was in the minor's best interest not to provide parental notification. There was no testimony from experts or the public on the amendment before the bill was advanced from committee.

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