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PHOENIX (AP) – Veronika Granado stood anxiously in front of the judge, knowing that if she said something bad things could end badly for her.

But the 17-year-old hadn’t committed any crime. She had not filed a complaint. Granado was in a Texas court that day seeking permission to have an abortion.

She was among thousands of teenage girls burdened with additional barriers to legal abortion care, especially if they are of color or live in states where access to abortion is already severely limited. Thirty-eight states require some form of parental consent or notice for anyone under the age of 18 to obtain an abortion. Of these, almost all, including Texas, offer an alternative: asking a judge for permission to bypass that consent.

But the latest Texas restrictions that essentially ban abortion after six weeks’ pregnancy have made such requests nearly impossible; the process before a judge includes a required ultrasound and a hearing can take weeks. By this time, women have often passed the six week mark. And as other states capitalize on the success of Texas law and establish their own restrictions, those few avenues are closed.

Supporters of parental consent laws say parents should have a say in the medical process. But adolescent girls seeking an abortion often face abuse or threats from homeless people if they tell their parents or guardians they are pregnant, said Rosann Mariappuram, executive director of Jane’s Due Process, the leading organization. of the country dedicated to helping young people go through the process of passing through a judge, and one of the few nationwide. They work with about 350 women a year in Texas. About 10% are in foster care and 80% are young people of color.

Most are over six weeks old when they first arrive. Girls who have only had their period for a few years are not likely to follow them. Athletes tend to have irregular periods. And sometimes when girls use birth control, they feel spots, which they can confuse for a while. All of these factors often lead infants – and adults too – to miss the first signs of pregnancy.

Kenzie Reynolds was 17 and a high school student when she found out she was pregnant. Her relationship was toxic and deeply controlling, and she couldn’t tell her family that she was pregnant or wanted to have an abortion because they are staunch Christians and opposed to the procedure, she said. . She had tried to tell her mother before that she wanted to be on birth control, but her mother systematically avoided the conversation.

She found Jane’s Due Process, but it would take four weeks before she could even see a judge to argue her case.

“The worst part about it was how bad I felt and how isolated I felt,” she said.

A month later, she appeared before the judge and told him about her toxic relationship, her despair and her terror.

But the judge rejected the request.

“He walked past me like I wasn’t even there,” she said. “I felt like he didn’t see me as a person.”

While she could have appealed, she was 10 weeks old at the time, too late to take an abortion pill, and the appeal was still uncertain. Instead, she connected with the Lilith Fund group for a flight to New Mexico where she underwent the procedure, and returned the same day.

“At the end of it all, I realized I was considered too young to have an abortion, but old enough to raise a child,” said Reynolds, who shared her story via WeTestify, a group dedicated to representation of people who have had an abortion. Now 21, Reynolds was finally able to break free from her relationship, which she might not have been able to do if she had shared a child and was going to college.

Already, calls to the group have dropped, while demands for the birth control services they provide have tripled, Mariappuram said.

Each state has its own rules governing how young people can bypass consent through a judge. Fifteen require judges to use the standard of “clear and convincing evidence” to determine whether a teenager is mature and that abortion is in their best interests, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for reproductive rights. Some states require judges to make a decision within 48 hours, while others have several days.

Judges are free to make a decision and they can ask for just about anything they want, she said. Sometimes they ask invasive questions like the number of sexual partners, Mariappuram said.

“We argue that every time you send someone to court for this, it’s traumatic because you make them believe they’ve broken the law,” she said.

A few states are reconsidering their policies. Last year, Massachusetts lowered the age of required parental consent to 16. In Illinois, lawmakers who support the right to abortion are pushing to repeal a parental notification law to ensure people have access to safe abortion services.

On the other hand, Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which advocates for abortion restrictions, said abortion is a life-changing medical procedure in which parents should have a say. to say. Although she opposes the option to bypass consent, she says the courts have repeatedly confirmed it.

“Parents should not be denied the opportunity to oversee this decision by their daughter,” Herrod said. “A young girl deserves the advice of her parents to make this decision. “

Making the decision to end the unplanned pregnancy wasn’t the hard part for Granado, whose own mother had given birth to her at 17. She knew how trying to be a teenage mother would be. She aspired to be the first in her family to graduate from college.

But she feared her mother would chase her away if she found out about her pregnancy and her decision to have an abortion. She stumbled across Jane’s Due Process as she researched her options, met with a lawyer, got the required ultrasound and a court date.

Granado was the first of four to arrive in a small room in a courthouse in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. She was standing directly in front of the judge, an older Hispanic man, who wanted to know why her parents couldn’t be involved, why she couldn’t raise this child, and what her future plans were.

“Basically my life was in the hands of this judge,” Granado said.

He told her that his religion disapproved of abortion, but that he had to be impartial as a judge.

He acceded to the request. A week and a half later, she terminated the pregnancy.

___

Lindsay Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Galván covers issues affecting Latinos in the United States for the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/astridgalvan

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