PHOENIX - Arizona judges approve abortions for minors seeking to have the procedure without parental consent in nearly 3 out of 4 cases, court records show.
The Administrative Office of the Courts has been required to report such court orders to the Arizona Department of Health Services since July 2010. Since that time, Superior Court judges have granted 95 out of 128 petitions.
The latest figures, which cover 2012, were published this month by the health department. The Arizona Capitol Times reports that the figures show the state recorded a 7.4 percent decline in total abortions from the previous year. There were 13,340 reported abortions, including 463 Arizona residents younger than 18. The courts reported issuing only 42 orders allowing minors to bypass their parents' consent. While there were fewer petitions considered in 2012, there was a spike - from 32 to 42 - in the number of petitions that were granted.
"In every state I have studied, or other people have studied, the pattern is the same, and the pattern is that a minor who makes her way to a court and gets before a judge to petition for a bypass is very likely to get her petition granted," said Helena Silverstein, professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.
Little can be gleaned from the few statistical categories the courts must report because proceedings are held in secret and records are sealed to protect the minor's privacy. However, Silverstein and others say some of the reasons minors go to the court are to prevent their parents from knowing they are sexually active, to avoid parental resistance to the abortion, or they are worried about retribution in the form of physical abuse or getting kicked out of the house.
"A lot of teenagers read a lot more into what their parents are going to do or not going to do than they should," said attorney John Jakubczyk, former head of Arizona Right to Life.
In the only published opinion related to Arizona's parental consent law, the Court of Appeals didn't disclose why the girl didn't ask for her parents' consent, but the 2003 opinion did say she wanted the abortion because she "could not afford to raise a child, and she did not want to be responsible for the child having a bad life."