Parental rights versus child safety debated in abortion bill

By Shelby Mullis

 INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly 10 times a year, Marilyn Moores sees young girls expelled from their home or abused by their parents after telling them of their decision to seek an abortion.

Moores, presiding judge of the Marion County Juvenile Court, fears a Senate bill moving through the House Public Policy Committee ouseHcould make the abortion process more dangerous for Indiana minors.

Marilyn Moores, a presiding judge of the Marion County Juvenile Court, testifies against an abortion bill Wednesday. Moores said the bill would be very damaging to Indiana minors seeking an abortion. Photo by Shelby Mullis,

Under current Indiana law, anyone under 18 must have the consent of a parent, legal guardian or custodian to get an abortion. To avoid the parental consent provision, minors may seek a judicial bypass, putting the decision in a judge’s hands.

Oftentimes, that decision falls to Moores. For 12 years, she has watched families fall apart following a successful judicial bypass.

“I understand most parents are horrified that their daughter could terminate her pregnancy without them even knowing because they can’t imagine their child not telling them,” Moores said. “You aren’t the parents of the young ladies I see. The young women I see in these hearings do not have good relationships with their parents.”

Senate Bill 404 would amend current Indiana law to require the adult accompanying the minor provide state-issued identification and proof of guardianship before signing off on a child’s abortion.

The bill would also require the courts to notify parents of the minor’s decision to pursue a judicial bypass. This would grant parents the opportunity to petition in court or appeal the court’s decision.

“The bill is about strengthening parental rights,” said Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem. “It’s not a bill about women seeking abortions; it’s about children seeking abortions and the right of parents.”

Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, presents a bill that would increase parental rights in the abortion process. The House Public Policy Committee heard tesitmony on the bill Wednesday. Photo by Shelby Mullis,

Houchin’s legislation was opposed by several people, including Moores, who testified during a Wednesday Public Policy Committee hearing.

“Forcing notification to parents, to these parents, then allowing judicial bypass upon the proper findings will destroy tenuous parent-child relationships,” Moores said in her testimony.

Dennis Fortenberry, an Indiana University pediatrics professor, said this would diminish the confidentiality between a physician and a patient — something he said he strives to establish with all his patients.

“Over the past quarter century or so, there have been at least 20 different studies to show that when you provide that assurance of confidentiality in medical encounters, young people provide information that is otherwise sensitive,” Fortenberry said.

But Corinne Purvis, the general counsel for Indiana Right to Life, agreed with Houchin’s bill. She reiterated Houchin’s purpose of the bill, calling it a way to strengthen parental rights.

Purvis said parents know the competency and maturity of their child, and should have the opportunity to share that before a judge if the child seeks a judicial bypass.

“I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, red-state, gun toting Republican. I got to tell you, I never pictured myself being here to testify against an abortion bill,” Moores said. “But I must tell you, it is my sincerest and and heartfelt belief that this bill will harm children.”

The bill remains in the House Public Policy Committee where it may be amended.

Shelby Mullis is a reporter for, powered by Franklin College journalism students.


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