I was reading an article in yesterday’s Washington Post about one of President Bush’s nominees for the federal appeals court who was expected to face tough questioning regarding her position on abortion. Apparently, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen‘s nomination is opposed by reproductive rights groups because of her past votes denying teenage girls exemptions under a Texas state law requiring minors to inform their parents before getting an abortion.
Interestingly enough even the man whose job it is to steer Judge Owen’s nomination through the Senate, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, wrote an opinion that denounced Owen as holding a view that would have been “an unconscionable act of judicial activism.”
The case in question involved a 17-year-old Texas high school student who wanted an abortion. However, under the above-mentioned Texas state law, she had to tell her parents first unless a judge found that she was either “mature enough to make the decision herself; that she faced possible abuse by her parents; or that parental notification would not be in her best interest.”
Two lower courts denied her, and so the case went to the Texas Supreme Court. The Texas Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 to grant the exemption based mainly on the opinion that she was in fact mature and well-informed. The majority noted that the girl was a few weeks away from her 18th birthday, and they acted swiftly at the time of the exemption; publishing the opinion 3 months later (before the girl entered her 15th week of pregnancy).
However, Judge Owen accused the court of acting “irresponsibly” and overturned the decision. She wrote:
“This is some evidence that [she] is not mature enough to accept responsibility for her actions or her future. She intends to continue to seek and take support from her parents in virtually all aspects of her life, but not with regard to her decision to have an abortion.”
Excuse me? A judge is going to tell someone she thinks is too immature to have an abortion to have a child?!