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

Georgia Senate increases legal burden for minors seeking abortions

The Georgia Senate Friday passed a bill that would require underage girls to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that they should be able to avoid notifying a parent or guardian that they get an abortion.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 74 by a vote of 33 to 17.

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

But the current law does not spell out guidelines for judges who must make that determination.

SB 74 would define the burden of proof necessary to receive a judge’s waiver of parental notification. They must provide “clear and convincing evidence” of their maturity or the need to waive notification. Fifteen other states require underage girls to meet that standard.

In 2016, juveniles filed 42 petitions to avoid notifying a parent or guardian, according to the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts. Judges granted 36 waivers.

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said the higher “clear and convincing evidence” standard is appropriate, instead of a lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

“It shouldn’t be a close call the judge is making,” McKoon said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Harold Jones II, D-Augusta, said the standard in the bill is usually used in adversarial legal proceedings and would limit the right of minors to have an abortion.

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