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High Court Sends Abortion Appeal To Three-Judge Panel

April 15, 1988

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Indiana’s Supreme Court decided Thursday that the case of a young woman who underwent an abortion in defiance of a court order will be heard by a lower court first because there’s no longer any urgency.

The 18-year-old woman, meanwhile, refused to discuss the matter.

″She would just like to disappear,″ said Samuel E. Beecher Jr., attorney for the unmarried Terre Haute woman identified in court documents only as V.J.H. ″She’s a very private person. She never imagined that she would have had this publicity.″

The woman’s attorneys announced Wednesday that she had undergone an abortion despite a Vigo Circuit Court order prohibiting her from terminating her pregnancy. The order was issued Monday at the request of a 24-year-old Terre Haute truck driver who claimed to be the father.

After the court order was issued, attorneys for both sides had asked for an expedited appeal to the state Supreme Court. On Thursday, the justices rejected that request.

″You have to have two things - a question of great public importance and an emergency situation,″ said court administrator Karl Mulvaney. ″The court’s feeling is that clearly there is no emergency any more.″

The case will be heard first by a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals. The case has not been assigned yet, Mulvaney said.

Because the case involves a paternity action, the names of the man and the woman are not revealed in court documents. The woman’s attorneys dispute the man’s claim to be the father.

Richard A. Waples, legal director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, argued that previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions give the mother sole authority to terminate a pregnancy during the first three months.

But Waples said he wanted the injunction issued by Vigo Circuit Judge Robert H. Brown overturned because ″if this order is allowed to go uncorrected, other judges might be tempted to do the same.″

James Bopp Jr., attorney for the national Right to Life organization and for the Terre Haute man, said he wants a higher court ruling on whether a father’s rights should be weighed against the mother’s in such cases.

Bobb said in court papers that his client was upset about the abortion and thought the mother terminated the pregnancy for frivolous reasons.

Waples said that he has found at least three cases where the mother’s right to go ahead and have an abortion despite a court order was ultimately upheld.

Bopp said he isn’t interested in punishing the woman, and Beecher said Brown has indicated he wouldn’t seek a contempt citation, which could carry penalties of a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

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