LINCOLN — Abortion rights groups want Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon investigated for telling a 16-year-old that an abortion would “kill the child inside you.”
Bataillon made the comments during a court hearing on the girl's request to get an abortion without parental consent.
He denied the request, ruling that the girl, a state ward, was not mature enough to decide on her own whether to have an abortion. His decision was upheld two weeks ago by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Before ruling, Bataillon asked the girl whether she understood that “when you have the abortion, it's going to kill the child inside you.”
Lincoln attorney Sue Ellen Wall cited that comment, the subsequent ruling and Bataillon's history of involvement with anti-abortion groups in a complaint filed Wednesday with the Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications.
“It appears clear beyond peradventure that Peter Bataillon sought to advance from the bench the same anti-choice interests he did during his personal crusades as a lawyer,” the complaint said.
Bataillon was chairman of Metro Right to Life and represented anti-abortion protesters accused of trespassing and stalking before being named to the bench.
On Friday, two national groups, NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, and RH Reality Check, an online publication about sexual and reproductive health and justice issues, announced they were launching a petition in support of the complaint.
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said Bataillon's comment made clear he was not going to give the girl's arguments a fair hearing.
“Holding a young woman's life in your hands requires an unimpeachable respect for constitutional rights and an impartial ability to judge the case on its merits,” she said.
“This judge threw both of those principles out the window when his statements from the bench proved his desire to put his own personal beliefs above the welfare of the minor.”
Bataillon, when asked for a response, relayed a message through his bailiff that he did not know about the complaint or the petition and could not have commented if he did.
Catherine Mahern, the attorney who represented the 16-year-old, said she had just learned about the complaint and petition Friday. She said she was not involved with either.
The case came to light because of the Nebraska Supreme Court's Oct. 4 decision.
The high court ruled that the girl, identified as Anonymous 5, had not shown she was mature enough to decide about an abortion, nor had she shown she was currently a victim of abuse.
The court refused to rule on whether Bataillon had shown bias, saying that issue should have been raised in district court for it to be considered on appeal.
Nebraska law requires girls to get written, notarized parental consent for an abortion.
Girls can bypass the consent provision in medical emergencies, if they are victims of abuse or neglect, or if they can convince a judge that they are mature and well-informed enough to make the decision themselves.
Two judges, in a dissenting opinion, said the ruling left the state ward without an avenue to get an abortion.
The girl does not have a parent or guardian to give consent for an abortion, other than the State Department of Health and Human Services, because her parents' rights have been terminated.
State regulations bar HHS from either giving or withholding consent for a ward to get an abortion.
The girl was 10 weeks pregnant in July, when she appeared in Bataillon's court. Her attorney has declined to say whether the girl is still pregnant.