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To Get An Abortion, Teens In 26 States Must Ask Parent Or Judge : Shots


A Massachusetts woman who had an abortion when she was 15 stands outside the Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston. Right now, girls facing that decision who don’t want to tell their parents must get a judge’s approval.

Jesse Costa/Jesse Costa/WBUR


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A Massachusetts woman who had an abortion when she was 15 stands outside the Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston. Right now, girls facing that decision who don’t want to tell their parents must get a judge’s approval.

Jesse Costa/Jesse Costa/WBUR

The teenager was just 15, and recovering from a rape, when she realized she was pregnant. This young woman, whom NPR has agreed not to name, says she knew right away that she wanted to terminate the pregnancy. But like a lot of states, Massachusetts required — and still requires — minors to get a parent’s consent before obtaining an abortion.

“I knew I couldn’t tell my mom or my immediate family members,” she says, “because my pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault from a family friend.” Her home, she adds, “wasn’t necessarily a safe or healthy one at the time.”

So the 15-year-old pursued her only legal alternative: obtaining permission for the procedure from a state judge. She remembers staring up at a man who never made eye contact with her during their short conversation about grades and whether she played sports. She says the judge never asked her about the assault or her planned abortion.

“And then, right before I was leaving, he just encouraged me to think harder next time, before I had sex,” she recalls. “That was tough to hear.”

The judge issued an order granting her request. But the additional time it took to get that permission pushed the 15-year-old past the point that would allow her to take pills to induce an abortion. Research shows going to court typically delays an abortion for minors in Massachusetts by six days — delays that are most common among low-income, nonwhite teenagers.

So, instead of a medical abortion, she had to have the more invasive surgical procedure. But that’s not what weighs heavily on the young woman, who is now 23, has a masters degree and works for a nonprofit in Boston.

“The feeling that I had — from seeing the judge and those last words he said to me about being ‘more responsible’ ” — is what has stuck with her.

Required parental consent is one of the main reasons Massachusetts, often viewed as a bastion of liberal laws, only gets a grade of “C” for abortion access from an abortion rights group. Now, there’s an ongoing, vigorous debate in Massachusetts about whether to keep or remove this restriction.

It’s part of a larger process, in which both supporters of abortion rights and groups that oppose abortion are re-examining — and often changing — state-level policies in the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. Both sides believe the appointment of Kavanaugh could lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned, which would mean the power to determine abortion policy would return to states.

Abortion-rights opponents say that when minors seek out abortion, having a parent or judge involved is supposed to help protect vulnerable teenagers, such as the 15-year-old who was raped. (That young woman says she has always assumed her lawyer told the judge how she got pregnant, but she can’t be sure.)

“In our laws, we need to do as much as we can — especially given the kind of epidemic abuse that we’re facing — to interrupt that cycle,” says David Franks, chairman of the board of the anti-abortion group Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

And requiring parental consent works to cut down on the procedures, these opponents of abortion rights say. The restriction has prevented at least 10,000 abortions since it was enacted in Massachusetts, according to calculations by Michael New, a visiting professor at The Catholic University of America. That takes into account the hundreds of Massachusetts teenagers who travel to neighboring states every year where parental consent for minors is not required. New says Massachusetts residents have traditionally backed some abortion limits for teenagers.

“Even in these more ‘liberal’ states, some of the existing pro-life laws still enjoy a lot of support,” New says. “I think most people are uncomfortable with minor girls obtaining abortions without their parent’s knowledge.”

Still, a poll out this past summer found that a plurality of Massachusetts voters favor letting minors decide on their own.

Removing parental consent is one of the key elements in a bill being called the “Roe Act” that’s pending in the Massachusetts legislature. It would also allow abortions in the third trimester — if a doctor diagnoses a fatal fetal condition — and, in anticipation of a post-Roe world, would establish the right to an abortion in state law.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Harriet Chandler, argues that abortion is more widely accepted these days as general medical care. Chandler, who is 82, remembers when it wasn’t.

“I think if people realize what a post-Roe world would be, that would make it even more reasonable to do this bill,” Chandler says.

Her proposed legislation is still in committee, and its ultimate fate is unclear. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, says he generally supports access to abortion, but not Chandler’s proposed expansions to state law.

Massachusetts, a heavily Catholic state, was among the first to pass limits on legal abortions in the 1970s, including required parental consent for minors. Twenty-five other states enforce a similar law for minors. No state has repealed the restriction.

‘It’s really been difficult to repeal barriers across the country,” says Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director at the abortion rights group NARAL Massachusetts. “This is a moment for us to take back that narrative and say those barriers are not acceptable.”

The prospect of eroding or overturning Roe v. Wade is triggering a flurry of legislative actions in states across the country. The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, says 17 states have passed abortion restrictions or bans this year, as compared to 9 states that have confirmed or expanded access to abortion.

The recent rush in many states to restrict abortion rights is part of what propels Chandler: “We’re going in a different direction than the rest of the country,” she says.

That reaction has also occurred in other left-leaning states, according to Guttmacher’s senior state issues manager, Elizabeth Nash. The increased focus on abortion began in late 2018, Nash says, when Kavanaugh’s arrival on the Supreme Court created a five-member conservative majority. Before then, abortion access wasn’t an urgent priority among liberals.

“People felt that they were OK,” Nash explains, “that their state was safe because they weren’t seeing the same kinds of attacks as, perhaps, in states like Texas or Louisiana.”

In Massachusetts, abortion-rights opponents are lobbying to dilute or defeat the Roe Act and then focus on their long-term goal: a state constitutional amendment to limit abortions.

Meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights say passage of the Roe Act would help Massachusetts cement its commitment to abortion access — and become a legislative haven for women who can’t obtain abortions in other states. With that message, they have stepped up fundraising appeals with the plea that even more women are going to need help with abortions in a post-Roe future.

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes WBUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News.



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EU states fail on sharing refugees – VoxEurop (English)



A mandatory 2015 scheme to dispatch people seeking international protection from Greece and Italy across the European Union did not deliver promised results, say EU auditors.

Although member states took in some 35,000 people from both countries, the EU auditors say at least 445,000 Eritreans, Iraqis and Syrians may have been potentially eligible in Greece alone.

The lead author of the report, Leo Brincat, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (13 November) that another 36,000 could have also been possibly relocated from Italy.

“But when it boils down to the total migrants relocated, you will find 21,999 in the case of Greece and 12,706 in the case of Italy,” he said.

The EU auditors say the migrants relocated at the time represented only around four percent of all the asylum seekers in Italy and around 22 percent in Greece.

Despite being repeatedly billed as a success by the European Commission, the two-year scheme had also caused massive rifts with some member states – leading to EU court battles in Luxembourg.

When it was first launched among interior ministers in late 2015, the mandatory nature of the proposal was forced through by a vote, overturning objections from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

Only last month, the advocate-general at the EU court in Luxembourg had declared the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland likely broke EU law for refusing to take in refugees from the 2015 scheme. While the Czech Republic took 12 people, both Hungary and Poland refused to host anyone at all.

Similar battles have for years played out behind closed doors as legislators grapple with deadlocked internal EU asylum reforms.

The concepts of sharing out asylum seekers, also known as relocation, are at the core of that deadlock.

Politics aside, Brincat’s report honed in on the so-called “temporary emergency relocation scheme” whereby EU states had agreed to take in some 160,000 people from Greece and Italy over a period spanning from September 2015 to September 2017.

Large numbers of people at the time were coming up through the Western Balkans into Hungary and onto Germany, while others were crossing from Turkey onto the Greek islands.

After the EU cut a deal with Turkey early 2016, the set legal target of 160,000 had been reduced to just over 98,000.

When the scheme finally ended in September 2017, only around 35,000 people had been relocated to member states along with Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

“In our view, relocation was really a demonstration of European solidarity and with almost a 100 percent of eligible candidates in Greece and in Italy having been successfully relocated,” a European Commission spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Bottlenecks and other problems

The EU auditors present a different view. They point out Greek and Italian authorities lacked the staff to properly identify people who could have been relocated, resulting in low registrations.

They also say EU states only took in people from Greece who arrived before the deal was cut with Turkey in March 2016.

Another issue was member states had vastly different asylum-recognition rates. For instance, asylum-recognition rates for Afghanis varied from six percent to 98 percent, depending on the member state. Iraqis had similarly variable rates.

Some migrants also simply didn’t trust relocation concept. Others likely baulked at the idea being sent to a country where they had no cultural, language or family ties.

Almost all of the 332 people sent to Lithuania, for example, packed up and left.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had even poked fun of it in late 2016. He had said asylum seekers from Greece and Italy were hard pressed to relocate to his home country of Luxembourg.

“We found 53 after explaining to them that it was close to Germany. They are no longer there [Luxembourg],” he said.



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