Judicial Races Become Politicized as Abortion Rights Grow as an Election Issue
The power of a single judge to make reproductive choice decisions for young women is part of a 1991 law which resulted from an initiative petition drive by Right to Life and other anti-choice forces.The law requires any young woman under the age of 18 to have the permission of a parent or a legal guardian to obtain an abortion, in any circumstances. If the young woman is unable to obtain that permission, or is afraid or unwilling to seek it, she can petition a court for a waiver of the parental consent requirement.
Any one of the five Washtenaw Circuit Court and two Probate Court judges may be assigned to hear these cases. During the last four years, there have been more than 125 of them.
It is impossible to know which judge or judges will be assigned to hear these cases in the future, but it certainly is possible that the newly-elected judge will decide some portion of them.
The statute says a waiver of parental consent should be granted if the court finds either of the following: 1) The minor is “sufficiently mature and well-enough informed” to make the decision independently of her parents or legal guardian, or 2) The waiver would be “in the best interests of the minor.” This language is broad and loose enough for the most pro-choice or anti-choice judge to find justification within in it for any decision.
The Right to Life position is to legally deny to every woman, no matter her age or maturity, the right to make a decision about whether to end a pregnancy, except when her life is endangered. The Human Life Amendment it supports would, essentially, make abortion a murder of a “person.” It is difficult to see how any judge who subscribes to the Right to Life position would ever find that a teenage girl should be given the option of deciding, on her own, whether to have an abortion, or would find that “murdering” her “unborn child” would be in her best interest.
Conversely, a pro-choice judge can’t require a minor to have an abortion. The judge only rules on whether the young woman may make the decision.