A review of Helen Silverstein’s new book, Girls on the Stand: How Courts Fail Pregnant Minors, appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle last week. While Silverstein calls for the dismantling of the system all together, Michael O’Donnell, the author of the review takes a more conservative stance.
In her book, Silverstein, a political scientist, surveyed courts charged with implementing the judicial bypass (where minors who cannot seek parental approval for their abortion go to a judge instead) in Alabama, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. She found that most courts had little understanding of the rights of these minors in the judicial bypass process, mainly because it is such a rare occurence.
As Silverstein’s research findings show, obtaining a judicial bypass to obtain an abortion if you are a minor is an extremely difficult and harsh process for young women.
Michael O’Donnell explains:
The real problem is not defiant, anti-abortion judges — whose impact is limited and whose behavior will not withstand scrutiny from most appellate courts — but ignorant court personnel. Some 50 percent of the surveyed court employees and judges knew nothing about the bypass process, and couldn’t explain what a young woman should do.
One can only imagine the difficulty, then, a young Latina woman will face in her attempts to obtain this judicial bypass. With barriers such as language, availability of time to go to court, cultural competency, lack of knowledge and fear of the US judicial system, the bypass is all but an impossible option for Latina women, and other women of color. This option is even more distant for young immigrant women: fear of deportation completely cuts negates this option.
Click here to buy the book.