Teenagers who find themselves pregnant come from all kinds of families and homes. Some teens have understanding parents who communicate openly and want what’s best for their daughter. But some teens are isolated, even abused, by their families. Those teens may face an increased risk of abuse if they want to have an abortion.
It’s up to you to tell your parents, and if you have a good relationship with them, we encourage you to do so.
But if you are scared to tell your parents or guardians about your pregnancy and ask for permission to have an abortion, you still have an option. You can try to get what’s called a judicial bypass.
A judicial bypass is how a teenager under the age of 18 can get permission from a judge to have an abortion. It is completely confidential, fast, and free. Your parents or guardian will not be able to see any court records; they will never be given out or shown to anyone. In fact, the records will be destroyed when your case is over.
It might seem like a lot of information, but the process of asking a judge for an abortion is not as complicated as you might think. This step-by-step list will walk you through the process.
- Find your Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Click on the name of the area you live in or live close to (you can try finding where you live on this map, if that’s easier).
- Call the court and say that you would like to schedule an appointment with the intake officer for a judicial bypass.
- If the court gives you any trouble or tells you that the court doesn’t handle anything like that (or isn’t sure what a judicial bypass is), politely explain to the person on the phone that a judicial bypass is a way for a girl under 18 to get a judge’s permission to get an abortion. You may also explain that the court should have forms for you to fill out. You may tell them the numbers of the forms.
- Write down the day and time of your appointment with the intake officer.
- Make sure you know how you will be getting to the court (with your own car, a friend might drive you, or you could take public transportation). Also make sure you have directions to the court.
- When you leave for the court, make sure you have any photo identification, if you own any.
- At the court, you will be asked to fill out forms. (The court may call this your “petition.”) You won’t need any special information. These are the forms you will asked to fill out. You can fill out these samples now and copy them at the court if you want to, but you don’t have to. These are only samples so you will know what to expect. (The court won’t accept completed copies of these forms, but will expect you to complete the copies they give you.)
- You have a right to counsel (a lawyer). This is part of the paperwork. You should be asked if you’d like a lawyer. If you say yes, the court will give you one for free. (It is a good idea to have a lawyer. He or she will be able to answer any legal questions you have and will be able to help you prepare to talk to a judge. Anything you say to your lawyer will be kept private. Lawyers are professionals and are there to help you.)
- You will be given a date and time to return to the court to talk to a judge. (The court may call this your “hearing.”) Keep this information in a safe place and make sure you have a way to return to the court on the date and time you’re given.
- You might have a meeting with your lawyer before you see the judge. Your lawyer is there to answer legal questions you might have and to help you get ready to talk to the judge. It would be helpful to answer these questions before you see your lawyer or the judge.* Your answers will help a lawyer represent you. They will also help convince a judge that you are mature and can independently make decisions about your life, and that you understand all of your options concerning your pregnancy. It will also help a judge decide if notifying a parent about your abortion is not in your best interest. Remember that what you say to your lawyer will be kept secret.
- When you go in to talk to the judge, you will probably be asked very personal questions. They might make you feel uncomfortable, but the judge is just trying to make sure that you are mature and have educated yourself about all of your pregnancy options (abortion, adoption, and parenting). Everything you say in front of the judge will only be known to you, your lawyer, and the judge. Always be very respectful of the judge when you are speaking. It’s okay to be nervous, but just be honest and explain yourself and situation as well as you can.
- If the judge gives you permission to have an abortion, you will get a court order (a piece of paper that says you have permission to have an abortion). It is extremely important that you keep this paper safe! You will bring this paper with you when you go to a clinic for an abortion.
- If the judge doesn’t give you permission, you can try to appeal (go to the Circuit court, which is a higher court than the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, and ask for permission there) or you can try to get permission from a parent or guardian.
It can be very scary to face an unintended pregnancy – especially if you can’t tell your parents. Please remember that you have options, and there are plenty of people who can help you. To find out who to talk to, or if you have more questions about abortion, click here.