State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, seeks to increase the burden of proof for minors attempting to avoid notifying their parents when they get an abortion. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Bill would increase legal burden for Georgia minors seeking abortions

Georgia could join 15 other states that require underage girls to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that they should be able to avoid notifying a parent or guardian if they are getting an abortion.

Current law doesn’t spell out guidelines for judges when minors ask to bypass notifying their parents if they get an abortion.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, is trying to change that with a bill he introduced last week that would define the burden of proof necessary to receive a judge’s waiver. A Senate panel gave the measure, Senate Bill 74, approval Monday.

Georgia law requires a minor seeking an abortion to either be accompanied by a parent or guardian, or the adults must be notified at least 24 hours prior to the procedure being performed. A minor can also get an abortion if she can prove to a judge that she is mature enough to understand her decision or that it would not be in her best interest to inform a parent.

State law does not specify the degree to which a judge must be convinced before granting the waiver.

“When a minor decides to bypass notification to their parents, which a previous Georgia Legislature thought was pretty important, they ought to be able to prove to a clear and convincing standard of their maturity and the necessity of that bypass,” McKoon said.

According to a report from to the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts, there were 42 petitions filed by juveniles in 2016 to avoid notifying a parent or guardian. Of those, 36 waivers were granted.

State Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta, said requiring minors to notify their parents already restricts their access to an abortion.

“So the question becomes, do we take a lower standard to access that waiver?” he asked. “Or do we make it more difficult?”

Abortion rights activists told lawmakers that the legislation would make it harder for “vulnerable” girls to get access to the medical procedure.

“Children may be in abusive homes where they don’t feel safe telling their families they’re pregnant,” said Megan Gordon with the Feminist Women’s Health Center.

McKoon said he drafted the bill with vulnerable children in mind.

“I’m very concerned about vulnerable unborn children and making sure this law is followed the way I believe the Legislature intended it to be followed,” he said.

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