Below is our guide to completing the Judicial Bypass process. You can also download a printable version of the guide here: Judicial Bypass Guide PDF.
What is judicial bypass?
In Louisiana, there is a law that requires all minors (17 and younger) to have a parent or guardian’s written consent in order to obtain an abortion. Because there are many reasons that a teen may not be able to talk to a parent or guardian about being pregnant or considering an abortion, there is a process that allows teens to obtain approval from a judge rather than from a parent. If you follow the steps below, you will be able to petition the judge for approval to have an abortion without the required parent or guardian consent. The judge uses a legal standard (explained below) to determine if you can receive a judicial bypass. If your case meets that standard, the judge will give you permission to decide whether or not to have an abortion on your own. You can meet with a judge in the parish where you live, or the parish where you will have the abortion.
The guide explains what the law means and the process to follow if you are a minor seeking a judicial bypass in Louisiana.
SUMMARY: When you meet with a judge, you have the right to:
- A speedy decision: Generally, the judge must decide your case immediately upon completion of the hearing, and no later than 48 hours after the hearing.
- A lawyer: A lawyer will be appointed for you by the judge unless you bring your own lawyer.
- Confidentiality: No information identifying you may appear on any record open to the public. Your attorney may not share any information with your parents. However, if the judge denies your petition, the judge MAY notify your parents.
- Answers to your questions: Your lawyer, the clerk at the court house, and staff at the clinic are all available to answer questions about the bypass procedure. Don’t be afraid to ask ANY questions.
FINAL CHECKLIST FOR JUDICIAL BYPASS APPLICATION:
Completed judicial bypass application.
What do I have to do to apply for a judicial bypass?
- Visit clinic and obtain pregnancy documentation. First, you should go to the clinic where the abortion will be performed, meet with a physician and/or counselors, and have an ultrasound to determine the gestational age of the fetus. The clinic or doctor who will perform the abortion can put in writing a verification that you are pregnant, and the length of the pregnancy. Note: if you get an ultrasound at a clinic that advertises “free ultrasounds,” you will still have to get one at the clinics where the abortion will be performed. The law requires a very specific medical visit and counseling session prior to an abortion, including a pre-abortion ultrasound. There are usually costs associated with this process, around $150. Some clinics may be able to waive these costs for minors. Ask the clinic if you can get this cost waived.
- Seek help in advance from a volunteer attorney (optional). Before of after your initial consultation at the clinic, you can contact a volunteer attorney for assistance. The benefit of contacting a volunteer attorney is that our volunteer attorneys are familiar with this particular law and standard. They can also help you fill out all the forms correctly and make sure you have everything ready for the hearing, and know what steps to take following the hearing.
- If you wish to seek help from a volunteer attorney, complete the intake questionnaire on the Contact an Attorney page. A volunteer attorney will contact you within 24-hours based on the information you provide. It is best to schedule a time to discuss your petition with your attorney prior to going to court.
- This program only provides representation at the New Orleans Juvenile Court downtown. You are eligible to seek a judicial bypass hearing in New Orleans if you seek to have an abortion in Orleans Parish, or if you are a resident of Orleans Parish.
- Complete judicial bypass application. You can download the form from our page by clicking here: Orleans Parish Judicial Bypass Application. Complete the application prior to going to court, if possible. You will bring the completed form with you to court. Alternatively, you can fill it out with the help of your volunteer attorney. You must have this document completed in order to petition the court for a judicial bypass.
- Payment at Court. There is a $150 fee for filing this application, but don’t worry, you don’t have to pay it if you cannot afford to. If you cannot pay this fee, you can file “in Forma Pauperis.” This means you do not have enough income to pay for this filing. The fee will then be waived automatically. It’s OK to do this! The court generally assumes that all minors are indigent (unable to pay).
- Go to court. Bring (1) your judicial bypass application and (2) document from the doctor/clinic verifying your pregnancy. The Juvenile Court in Orleans Parish is located at: 1100 Milton St, New Orleans, LA 70112, on the first floor. Their phone number is: (504) 658-9500. If you have contacted a volunteer attorney in advance, make plans for that attorney to go to court with you.
- The hearing. On the day that the judge hears your petition, the clerk (the judge’s assistant) will take you to a waiting room. The judge should then meet with you privately in his or her chambers (their office). If the proceedings begin in open court, you or your attorney should ask the judge to have a “private hearing in chambers.” The judge will be given the judicial bypass application you filled out.
- You will be represented by an attorney during the hearing, either your own attorney or one that the judge appoints for you that day. An attorney should be with you in the chambers and present your petition to the judge.
If you have more questions, check out our FAQs page.