Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 23, 1987
New Delay Of Law Telling Parent Of Teen's Abortion
By Rita McInerney
The Georgia parental notification law requiring females under 18 to notify a parent before getting an abortion may be on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decision on an Illinois challenge to a similar law.
A temporary restraining order delaying the start of the Georgia parental notification act was continued in effect by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hall after hearings held July 16 and 17 on the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood challenging the constitutionality of the law.
The temporary restraining order was issued by Judge Hall at a hearing held June 30, one day before the law was to become effective on July 1.
As the hearing opened July 16, the judge announced that it would be for the taking of evidence only. Each party was to file post-hearing written briefs by Aug. 14.
On Friday morning, July 17, after hearing five witnesses for Planned Parenthood (the suit was filed by the Atlanta and Augusta chapters) and one for the state of Georgia, the judge said his thought was to get his ruling on a preliminary injunction out "as expeditiously as possible.' Whatever his ruling was, he continued, it would be best to stay the case until after the pending decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act. It is expected that the high court will rule on this case sometime in the fall.
Judge Hall said the Georgia case and any appeals would take from 12 to 14 months in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. He expects the decision from the Supreme Court will be faster than that of the appeals court.
Dr. Stephen Edmondson, an Atlanta physician specializing in psychiatry, was the state's only witness. He testified that he has been in private practice since 1969 and is associated with Peachford, Northside and St. Joseph's hospitals and Ridgeview Institute.
He has been counseling pregnant teenagers since 1973, he said, with the parents or parent almost always involved. He said he has also counseled women, about 30 or 35 in number, suffering delayed effects of the abortion experience.
It is his opinion, he said, that parents should be involved at each phase of making the decision -- on abortion, on keeping the child and adoption. It is important, he said, for the parent, in the event of an abortion, to be able to give the minor's health history and personal traits. Allowing the parent to take part in the decision-making, he said, lets the child know the parent is there to help.
It is important for the parent to be close by and available to the minor, he continued, if special care is needed should complications of the surgical procedure arise. If the parents did not know of the pregnancy they would be in no position to help their child avoid repeating the pregnancy or deal with the feelings of loss and self-doubt, he said.
He said he has treated women in their 20s and 30s who have undergone abortions since 1973, and who are now experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. The trauma, often delayed, can include numbing of feelings, depression, guild, grief. The grief can be in response to seeing the newborn baby of a family member, he said, and if the woman later has a child of her own, a strong sense of grief can be activated over the one she lost to abortion.
"Women I have seen," Dr. Edmondson said, "have onset of the problem some years later, from seeing a new baby or from failure to conceive a child. They are often overwhelmed by the crisis of trying to deal with it openly." The grief over abortion, he said, is intensified because there is no body to mourn or no funeral to assist the individual with her sense of loss. This can be a "traumatic, emotional event for women reared to have a self-image as mothers."
Parental notification can avert the post-abortion syndrome, he said, because the teen does not have to handle the experience alone. By sharing feelings and grief with a supporting person, the grief need not be delayed.
While being cross-examined by Roger Evans for Planned Parenthood, the doctor said he has "occasionally contributed a few dollars to Georgia Right to Life" but is not a member of the organization.
In response to another question from Evans, he said that he would have a problem determining whether parents should not be involved without an investigation of the situation. "To take the teenager's word that the parent is troublesome is not enough." His experience in dealing with teenagers, he said, is that they often do not deal factually with what's happening.
He reiterated his earlier statement that the parent is in no position to help if not told of the minor's choice of abortion. When most parents are told, he said, their first reaction is negative. Bu through the experience of trying to deal with the issue they carry out their parental responsibility.
The hearing concluded Friday morning, July 17, with Dr. David Grimes testifying for Planned Parenthood. A physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology who said he had a "special interest in abortion," Dr. Grimes was associated with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta for seven years through late June of 1986. He is now a professor on the faculty of the southern California School of Medicine.
At the CDC he was associated with the abortion surveillance branch which he described as studying the numbers of women having abortions and served as branch chief in 1983-1984. During his years at the CDC, he said in testimony, 10 million abortions were performed in the U.S.
From 1982 to 1986, as a private practitioner, he performed abortions at local clinics including Midtown Hospital on Ponce de Leon Avenue. He also performed and taught abortion procedures at Grady Hospital. He estimated that he has performed "in excess of 10,000 abortions," between 10 and 20 percent in the second trimester, or between the 12th and 24th week of pregnancy.
Under questioning by Dara Klassel for Planned Parenthood, he said the risk of complications from abortion increases for each week the pregnant woman delays. One reason, he said, is because of the "larger bulk of the product of conception."
During cross-examination by Patricia Downing, an assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia, he said the risk of complications is less for teenagers and there is a very low risk of severe complications from abortion for teenagers.
He acknowledged that he was a member of the Association of Planned Parenthood Professionals, on the board of directors of the National Abortion Federation, and has served as consultant for the national medical committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
He said that he had flown into Atlanta from New York City to testify and was flying back to California later that morning. In response to the question as to whether Planned Parenthood was paying for his flight, he said he presumed it would be.
In addition to Dr. Grimes, Planned Parenthood called four witnesses. In presenting its case, it contended that the judicial review process provided in the parental notification law would delay and add to the risk and expense of an abortion, and does not preserve the anonymity of the parties involved. A court waiver could be sought if the minor chooses not to notify a parent or legal guardian.
The parental notification bill was passed by the Georgia State Assembly in its 1987 session. A similar bill passed both houses of the legislature in 1986 but the session expired before the versions from each chamber could be revised and approved by the judiciary committees.
The U.S. Catholic Conference has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Illinois case under Supreme Court review. The brief argues that "whatever the scope of a minor's 'right' to seek an abortion, family integrity is a substantial interest worthy of judicial deference." The Illinois act provides for a 24-hour mandatory waiting period for a dependent, immature minor seeking an abortion after notice of her intention is given to her parents.
The USCC brief argues that "a state make permissible advance protection of the family through a parental notification statute that allows for a brief period for discussion between parents and their minor, unemancipated daughter prior to execution of her decision to abort her unborn child."
One section of the brief discusses the family as an institution whose values are being challenged in a fundamental way by abortion:
"Under the abortion decisions of this court, one member of the household may dictate to all the others whether new life -- plainly a member of the family -- may be allowed to be born When the person making that decision is an adolescent, the implications are especially serious. The adolescent making such a decision needs to be guided by knowledgeable and caring persons, not abortion clinic employees, if she is to appreciate meaningfully the import and consequences of her actions."