ST. LOUIS – The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed that a mature minor has the constitutional right to an abortion in the state of Missouri without parental involvement. The federal appellate court upheld a lower court’s denial of immunity to a state court clerk who refused a 17-year-old access to a judge who could allow her to make an abortion decision without the consent or knowledge of her parents.
Missouri’s law provides that that as an alternative to obtaining parental consent, a judge can give majority rights for the purpose of consenting to the abortion if the minor is “mature.”
In this case, a young woman identified as Jane Doe sought to petition the court for majority rights to make an abortion decision—a procedure referred to as a judicial bypass—the court clerk refused to allow her to file the request without notifying her parents. Doe went to the courthouse seeking assistance three times, and each time departed without being afforded the chance to appear before a judge because she refused to allow the clerk to notify her parents. First, the court clerk claimed ignorance of the judicial bypass procedure. After Doe had returned a second time to seek court approval, the clerk claimed that she would need to notify Doe’s parents prior to setting a court hearing. When given a third opportunity to abide by the law, the clerk still failed to uphold her duties under longstanding state and federal law.
“Sadly, this is not the first time a low-level official has tried to impose their will and beliefs upon the very people they are supposed to serve,” said Luz María Henríquez, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Through these tactics, this court clerk denied Doe of her constitutional rights as a Missourian.”
The ACLU of Missouri brought this lawsuit to uphold Doe’s constitutional rights to secure a judicial bypass in lieu of parental consent to seek an abortion. Today’s ruling found that the clerk has not proven she is entitled to quasi-judicial or qualified immunity and allows the case to proceed to trial. Doe is represented by the ACLU of Missouri.
“There is no dispute that this individual was mature enough to be entitled to make an abortion decision without her parents’ involvement,” said Anthony Rothert, Director of Integrated Advocacy of the ACLU of Missouri. “The Constitution does not let a court clerk decide to place her own conditions on the exercise of that right, and ACLU of Missouri will continue to demand accountability when government officials at any level discard the individual rights enshrined in the Constitution.”
To read the full decision, please visit https://www.aclu-mo.org/sites/default/files/21-1692_jane_doe_v._michelle_chapman.pdf.
The ACLU of Missouri preserves and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians as guaranteed in the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions, with a focus on the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments. For more information or to file a complaint with the ACLU of Missouri, visit aclu-mo.org.