Judicial Bypass Wiki

Women’s Law Project

https://www.womenslawproject.org/telephone-counseling-referral-service/

Contact Info

412-281-2892

No matter their age, every person in Pennsylvania has the legal right to get an abortion. But the state restricts abortions in some ways. In Pennsylvania, every person who wants or needs to have an abortion must:

  • get counseling from an abortion provider
  • wait 24 hours after you get counseling before you can get the abortion

All abortions must be performed before 24 weeks unless the patient’s life or health is in danger.

All abortion providers give some counseling to make sure you understand the medical process. But in some states like Pennsylvania, the law makes abortion providers tell you about certain written materials. Those materials about abortion could be misleading or completely wrong. You don’t have to take these materials or read them if you don’t want to, but if you do read them and have questions, you can connect with other young people who have had an abortion to hear about their experiences here. You can also learn more about abortion procedures, how people may feel afterward, and learn about free, confidential, phone-based counseling services here. You can also talk to the staff at the clinic if you have questions.

Pennsylvania makes people under age 18 get written permission from a parent or legal guardian before getting an abortion. That written permission is called consent.

 If you feel safe and want to involve a parent in your decision to have an abortion, one option is to talk to a parent to determine if they will provide permission for your abortion in writing. Your parent can only do this after they listen to a government-required counseling session, which must be heard at least 24 hours before the procedure. 

If you cannot or do not want to involve your parent or guardian, or if they will not consent, you can go to court and ask a judge to allow you to get an abortion. This is called a judicial bypass.

 

In Pennsylvania, the following people can consent to an abortion for someone under age 18:

  • A parent
  • A {{legal guardian}{legal guardian has a court order stating that they have the legal authority and duty to care for a minor. This is different from a foster parent}}
  • If, and only if, both your parent(s) and your legal guardian(s) are {{not available}{Not available here means if your doctor cannot reach them to get permission even after trying for some time}}, you can get consent from an adult acting in {{loco parentis}{Acting in loco parentis means an adult is taking care of you like a parent would, even though they are not your actual parent. Unlike a legal guardian, this adult may not have an official order from the court saying that they have a duty to care for you}}.

If your parent or guardian gives you permission, they have to sign a form saying so, and must also go to the clinic appointment with you. For that appointment, you will need to bring:

  1. A picture ID for yourself and your parent/guardian, this can be a
    1. driver’s license
    2. picture ID from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles
    3. a passport
    4. or a work or school picture ID with birth date on it
  2. Your birth certificate that includes the name of the parent coming with you to your appointment or a document that proves your guardian has the legal authority to care for you.

Not everyone can involve their parent or guardian in their decision to have an abortion. If you cannot or do not want to involve your parent, or if no one on the above list will give you consent, there is another option called a judicial bypass. A judicial bypass means asking a judge to allow you to get an abortion without involving your parent or guardian.

This is a legal process that a lawyer can help you with. You do not need a lawyer, but you can have a lawyer for free if you want one. All you need to do is ask the court for one. Or you can reach out to Allentown Women’s Center here or The Women’s Law Project here to get connected to a lawyer who will help you through the entire process.

Your lawyer’s job is to represent you in court. That means they are there to help you ask for what you want. Even if the lawyer was given to you by the court, it is your lawyer’s job to help you ask the court for what you want.

1.  Pennsylvania is one of the states that has a dedicated group of advocates working to help young people who need a judicial bypass.

You can visit the websites for the Allentown Women’s Center here and The Women’s Law Project here.

The Allentown Women’s Center is a clinic that can provide you with someone to guide you through the entire bypass process.

The Women’s Law Project can also help provide information and connect you to a free lawyer if you need one, but they do recommend that you start by contacting a clinic first.

2.  You also have the option to start the judicial bypass process on your own. If you already know which clinic you would like to go to, you can call them and say you are a minor who needs help with a judicial bypass. Clinics can tell you more about the process and answer your questions. If you do not know which clinic you want to go to, you can find a list of clinics here.

To start the bypass process, you will have to fill out a {{petition}{a petition is a form you fill in with information that tells the court what you are asking for}}, called an application. After you fill it out, you turn it into the court of common pleas in the district where you live or where you want to get an abortion. You can find the petition form here. You can find a directory for Pennsylvania’s courts of common pleas here. You can also contact the court and speak to a {{clerk}{a clerk is someone who works for the court, they are the ones that usually accept forms and schedules meetings with judge}} to make sure you get the right form and instructions.

Once you turn in the application for a judicial bypass, the judge has three (3) days, not including holiday or weekends, to schedule a {{hearing}{A hearing is a meeting with the judge}}  and make a decision. If the judge grants your bypass, the court will give you a {{document of approval}{Paper that shows the judge’s decision to grant you a bypass}} to take to the clinic with you. This means you will be able to have an abortion without telling your parent or guardian.

3.  You also can go to a clinic outside of the state where you live. If that is the decision you make, please go to the judicial bypass wiki page for that state to learn about its abortion restrictions, which could be very different from Pennsylvania.

 

The {{hearing}{A hearing is a meeting with the judge}} will happen in a {{closed courtroom}{A closed courtroom means that no one will be allowed in other than you, your attorney, the judge, and a clerk}}. The judge will ask you questions to learn more about you. The judge will want to know that you have talked to a doctor about the pregnancy and about the abortion. Since every judge is different, we cannot know exactly what they will ask you, but the judge is trying to decide whether you seem mature enough to make important decisions about your health care. You can read more about the hearing on the Women’s Law Project factsheet here.

Judges can also ask your age, whether you have had a job, if you have lived away from your parents, if you have traveled by yourself, if you have your own money and know what a budget is, what plans you have for the future, and whether you have made other big decisions in your life. The judge might also ask what has happened since you found out you were pregnant, what you think will happen if you don’t have an abortion, and what you did to decide you wanted or needed an abortion. The judge might ask you why you want or need an abortion.

A judge might also ask questions that are not listed here, but it is a good idea to start thinking about what your answers are to these questions so you are ready if the judge asks. Your lawyer can help you with this.

After the hearing, the judge makes a decision about whether you can have an abortion without telling a parent. If you think you cannot make it to the hearing, but still want the judicial bypass, you can ask for a different time to talk to the judge. If you have a lawyer, ask your lawyer about changing the time. If you don’t have a lawyer, call the court and tell them you have a time scheduled to talk to the judge but need a {{different time}{The person at the court who you speak with might call this a continuance}}.

After the {{hearing}{A hearing is a meeting with the judge}}, the judge decides whether they think you are {{mature and well-informed}{the judge thinks you can make the decision to get an abortion without talking to your parent first}} to make this decision on your own, or if it’s in your {{best interest}{The judge thinks it would be better for you to get an abortion without involving your parent}}.

If the judge makes a decision and agrees that you can get an abortion, you will get a {{document of approval}{Paper that shows the judge’s decision to grant you a bypass}} from the court. This is what you will need to take to the clinic to show that you have permission from the court to get an abortion.

To protect your privacy, you can ask court/attorney to send a copy of the court order directly to the clinic for you. 

No. The judicial bypass is confidential, which means that no one outside of the court will be told about it.

No, if you are granted a judicial bypass that means you can get an abortion if you want. It does not mean you are required to and you can always change your mind. The court {{order}{official paper to give to the clinic to show them that you have a judicial bypass}} just means you can make the decision about whether you want or need an abortion without involving your parent/guardian.

If the judge says you cannot get an abortion without your parent’s permission, you can {{appeal}{An appeal is what happens when you do not agree with the judge’s decision and want to try and challenge that decision in court]}} the decision. So even if the judge tells you no, you can ask another court with different judges to make a different decision.

If you need a lawyer for the appeal, you should contact the Women’s Law Project immediately at 412-281-3048. A lawyer will represent you at no cost. Or if you had a lawyer for the hearing, they can talk to you about the appeal and help you understand what you need to do next.

If you want to appeal the judge’s decision, you have to fill out a Notice of Appeal form. The state does not make these available online. Once you turn in the appeal form, the judge has five (5) days, not including weekends or holidays, to make a decision.

You may also decide to get an abortion from a different state that does not have a law that requires you to involve your parent.

You do not have to pay any money to get a judicial bypass. You may be able to get help paying for your abortion. Your clinic may be able to help you cover the cost of your abortion through an abortion fund.

You can also contact an abortion fund directly to learn more. You can find more information about the Abortion Liberation Fund of PA here and the Western Pennsylvania Fund for Choice-Pittsburgh here.

You can find a map of these abortion clinics in Pennsylvania here.

You can also use these directories to find an abortion clinic near you:

Some clinics may have limited services or hours.

Planned Parenthood: Directory Here (make sure you select abortion in the services drop down menu)

National Abortion Federation: Directory Here

Abortion Care Network: Directory Here

I Need An Abortion: Directory Here

Quick Exit Click this bar or hit ESC on your keyboard
What is this? Learn about safe browsing