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Pennsylvania School District Settles Lawsuit over Secret Abortion.

In a settlement to a case in which a school guidance counselor allegedly encouraged a teenager to obtain a secret, out-of-state, second-trimester abortion, a Pennsylvania school district has adopted a policy banning its employees from helping any student get an abortion.

The U.S. District Court in Philadelphia approved the settlement between the Hatboro-Horsham School District and Howard and Marie Carter on March 14, according to the Associated Press (AP). The Carters' lawsuit alleged that their daughter Stephanie, then 17, got an abortion at a New Jersey clinic in May 1998 at the urging of William Hickey, the guidance counselor at Hatboro-Horsham High School.

Pennsylvania's 1989 Abortion Control Act requires teens to obtain the consent of a parent before an abortion or appear before a judge to bypass the requirement. New Jersey has no parental notification requirement.

"This case sends a message to the rest of the school districts in Pennsylvania that parents won't tolerate school employees circumventing state law," Mary Beliveau, legislative director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, told NRL News.

Stephanie Carter's parents found out about the abortion only after finding soiled clothes and abortion pamphlets in her closet a few weeks later, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"Our grandchild is gone forever, and our daughter will always live with this pain," said Howard and Marie Carter in a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a pro-life group representing the family. "But if even one girl is encouraged to turn to her parents instead of a New Jersey abortion clinic - - and if even one baby lives because of this policy - - then it was worth the fight."

Stephanie Carter discovered she was pregnant in April 1998, only a few months after her family moved to Pennsylvania from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Inquirer reported that she met with Hickey more than 10 times to discuss her pregnancy. The Carters' lawsuit alleged that when Stephanie told Hickey she had concerns about having an abortion because of her beliefs as a Southern Baptist, he responded, "Welcome to the adult world."

The family also charged that Hickey used the school district's bank accounts to cash checks from the baby's father to finance the abortion, provided excuses so Stephanie could skip school, and drew her a map to the New Jersey clinic, according to the AP.

The settlement obligates the school district to issue and enforce a directive banning school personnel from encouraging, assisting, aiding, or abetting a student in obtaining an abortion, according to the ACLJ statement. School personnel are specifically prohibited from advising students to cross state lines to get around the state's parental consent laws. The district court will oversee the new policy, the Inquirer reported.

Although the school district and Hickey did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, the district will pay the Carters $20,000 in damages.

"This was never about money; it was about getting these schools out of the business of finding abortions for students," John Stepanovich, senior counsel for the ACLJ, told the Inquirer.

The Carters agreed. "The most important thing for us has always been making sure this does not happen to another family in this district, and we pray all school boards will adopt such a policy," they said in the ACLJ statement.>EN
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Article Details
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Author:Townsend, Liz
Publication:National Right to Life News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
Words:543
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