There is a choice for teens who can't tell their parent about their decision to have an abortion. It is called a judicial bypass. If you are sure that you cannot tell your parent or guardian about your pregnancy, you can ask for an order from a judge to allow you to have an abortion without telling anyone. To find out more, please read our frequently asked questions below:
- If I need an attorney, where do I go?
- How much does an attorney cost?
- How does the process work?
- Who long does the process take?
- What is the purpose of the hearing?
- How will the court decide to grant a bypass?
- How will the minor be notified of the judicial bypass decision?
- What if the court fails to issue a decision in four calendar days?
- What if the bypass isn't granted?
Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts has created a hotline to assist minors seeking information about the judicial bypass process and access to an attorney. The hotline will serve minors whether they are seeking an abortion at Planned Parenthood or at another abortion provider.
The toll-free hotline number is: 617.616.1616
There is no fee for filing the petition. In addition, the attorneys connected through PPLM will not be charging the minor for their services.
Once the minor has met with the attorney, the attorney will file a petition in district court to request a bypass and schedule the bypass hearing. The hearing must be held in a location where there is privacy and limited access. This will most likely be in the judge's private chambers or in a closed courtroom. Each judge may have his or her own way of conducting a hearing. The judge may ask questions and the minor is encouraged to answer them as best they can. The minor's identity, the court record, and the court proceedings must be kept under seal and cannot be disclosed.
The court must schedule the hearing as soon as the petition is filed. The hearing must be set as soon as practicable but in no event later than four calendar days after the date of filing. The court must also issue a decision within four calendar days after the date of filing.
Under the federal constitution, a minor has the right to a two-tiered hearing in which they are entitled to show that they are mature enough to give informed consent to the abortion, and if they are not sufficiently mature, that waiver is in their best interest.
If the judge finds the minor is sufficiently mature to decide whether to have an abortion, the court must waive the notification requirement. In waiving the requirement based on maturity, the court is authorizing the minor to make their own decision whether to have an abortion; the court does not actually consent to or order the abortion.
If the judge does not find that the minor is sufficiently mature to make the decision to have an abortion, the judge must then determine whether the parental notification requirement is or is not in the minor's best interest.
The court can only grant the minor's petition if the judge determines that, by clear and convincing evidence, the minor is sufficiently mature to decide whether to have an abortion, or that, by a preponderance of the evidence, giving parental notice would not be in the minor's best interest.
The court will notify the attorney about the decision. If the petition is granted, an order will be issued. Again, in most cases, the order will most likely go to the attorney. The minor will need to present this order to the health care provider before the procedure.
If the court fails to issue a decision within four calendar days after the petition is filed, then the petition is deemed granted and the minor can proceed with the abortion.
If the court denies the petition, the minor may appeal to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals must hear and decide the appeal no later than five calendar days after the appeal is filed. If the court fails to issue a decision within five calendar days after the petition is filed, then the petition is deemed granted.