A pregnant teenager went to the grand and imposing county courthouse here early in the summer, saying she wanted an abortion. The circuit court judge refused to hear the case, and he announced that he would recuse himself from any others like it.
"Taking the life of an innocent human being is contrary to the moral order," the judge, John R. McCarroll of Shelby County Circuit Court, wrote in June. "I could not in good conscience make a finding that would allow the minor to proceed with the abortion."
Tennessee, where this case arose, is one of 19 states requiring parental notification and consent for abortion services; however, in this state the law provides minors the right to seek judicial permission for an abortion if they choose not to involve their parents.
Good and valid arguments can be made in support of parental notification laws, but prerequisite to their enactment is a viable judicial appeal process. Minors subject to abuse, retribution or abandonment on the basis of their decision to seek an abortion must have recourse to the courts. If judges frequently recuse themselves from hearing such pleas, the system becomes untenable.