by Emily Matson, Executive Director & Kristina Twitty, Director of Operations
(This article first appeared at Insider Advantage.)
As a state, we require statistical reporting on any number of medical procedures and court proceedings. This is what House Bill 555 is about. As it passed the House, this bill would ensure accurate reporting of minor girls (under 18) getting an abortion by the permission of a judge, without parental involvement.
During the 2015 Legislative Session, Representative Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) introduced HB 555. As it was originally written, this bill would have ensured that: 1) All abortion providers certify in every abortion, that the patient has been provided information required by the Women’s Right to Know law, prior to performing an abortion (surgical, or chemical), no matter where that abortion was performed. 2) Abortion providers report the disposal of fetal remains uniformly, regardless of the facility in which the abortion was performed or miscarriage occurred. 3) The Department of Public Health as accurate reporting on the number of minor girls obtaining an abortion without parental notice.
HB 555 was tabled in a House Insurance subcommittee and made it no further in 2015. The bill carried over to the 2016 session and thankfully was revived for hearing – but not before the bill was revised by striking the first and second reporting provisions. The revised bill, called a “substitute” passed out of committee and passed the Georgia House on February 17. The rest of this article is limited to the amended HB 555 that passed. . Parental Notification Laws There are 38 states in the nation that require either parental consent or parental notification prior to a minor female having an abortion. Georgia requires parents be notified before an abortion may be performed on a minor. Where a minor girl does not want to notify her parents, she may petition the juvenile court to bypass the notice requirement….after which a juvenile court may issue an order to bypass notice to the parents and allow the child and doctor to proceed with the abortion. (Guttmacher Institute: Parental Involvement in Minors Abortions – February 1, 2016)
Abortion-Related Reporting Forty-six (46) states require hospitals, facilities and physicians providing abortions to submit regular and confidential reports to the state. Fifteen (15) states require providers to indicate if the state mandates for abortion counseling and parental involvement were satisfied. (Guttmacher Institute’s Abortion Reporting Requirements – Feb. 1 2016 report) Georgia already requires such reporting, but it has not been happening. HB 555 will correct this situation by providing instruction for the collection and reporting of this data by the Young Court and the Administrative Office of the Court (AOC), so that the AOC can then give accurate, certain statistics to the Department of Public Health for their annual report as already required by state law. The bill requires nothing further but simply clarifies how this data will be gathered and transferred through the proper channels.
Our Georgia Juvenile Court Judges made suggestions to this language, to which we agreed, ensuring the data will be compiled in a form that will not be used to target certain judges that may or may not grant such petitions. This ensures that this data will be kept confidential, not be subject to an open records request, and destroyed after it has been compiled and reported.
The bill assures we will have an accurate picture of how many of our minor girls – when making this often difficult decision – feel forced to seek the protection of the Court and feel they must go outside the protection of their parents to do so.
Why is this reporting so important? Accurate facts regarding Georgia’s young women and their health decisions is always important. Where these circumstances exist and a child, under the age of 18 does not want to tell her parents that she wants an abortion – there are other tough issues. This is one of the most vulnerable places in which a young girl can find herself – unable to tell their own parents what she is facing and deciding. Note that this can apply to girls as young as 12!!
House Bill 555 ensures accountability for adults performing medical procedures on children without parental notice. If a doctor or clinic has a duty to not perform an abortion unless they notify the child’s parents, who holds them accountable? These reporting provisions provide a comparison to hopefully ensure compliance with the law. If a doctor is required to report whether or not parents have been notified – there should be a clear comparison of the same statistics (minor children seeking to bypass parental notification) coming from the juvenile courts – which should result in exact similar numbers. If a doctor reports he performed an abortion without parental notice – there should be a corresponding report from a juvenile court that the abortion was approved to proceed without parental notice.
Health data is extremely useful. The Centers for Disease Control maintains that “The public health approach to problem solving includes using surveillance data to identify problems and assess the effectiveness of interventions. Without accurate and timely data, public health programs suffer.”
HB 555 passed the State House on February 17th, 2016 with 119 Representatives voting in support, 51 voting against. It moved on to the Senate was assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Passing Committee with a 7-4 vote, on Monday March 7, it moved to Senate Rules Committee for consideration for the Senate Floor.
UPDATE: Governor Deal signed HB 555 on April 26, 2016 and it became Act 424. The law went into affect on July 1, 2016.
Visit the Georgia House website for more information.
Georgia Life Alliance is the Georgia affiliate of the National Right to Life. For More information about the work of GLA please visit: www.georgialifealliance.com, FB: GeorgiaLife and Twitter @GaLifeAlliance. 678-597-8055.
To support our work, please DONATE HERE.