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Leanne Speitel ’02, a philosophy major from Ocean City, N.J., is exploring the implementation and impact of parental consent requirements on abortion in a distinctive research opportunity this semester. In particular, she is focusing on judicial bypass procedures.

Speitel is working as an EXCEL Scholar with Helena Silverstein, associate professor of government and law. In Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend.

“According to the United States Supreme Court, states may require that a pregnant minor obtain parental consent before terminating her pregnancy, but only if the minor has the opportunity to seek a waiver, or bypass, of that consent. In line with Supreme Court requirements, most states have incorporated ‘judicial bypass procedures’ into their parental consent mandates, designating local judges as the arbiters of minors’ waiver requests,” Silverstein explains.

“States that fail to provide such bypass procedures are, according to the Supreme Court, in violation of the Constitution. This research project explores the implementation and impact of parental consent requirements, focusing especially on judicial bypass procedures. The goal is to determine whether, as applied in the real world, mandated parental consent conforms to established constitutional rights,” she says.

Speitel is responsible for developing the research design for the project and researching how parental consent mandates are implemented at the state and local level. She is also conducting interviews with those familiar with the application of parental consent provisions.

Abortion was the focus of Speitel’s First-Year Seminar; she further explored the issue in a VAST course.

“Many Supreme Court cases, including a few more recent ones, deal with the issue of abortion. I have always been interested in analyzing these cases and have focused on protecting fundamental rights,” Speitel says.

The research project focuses on many issues discussed in Speitel’s philosophy classes, in which she studied theory as well as case law.

“Seeing how law works in practice by virtue of how it is implemented is an aspect of study that few students are truly able to investigate,” she says. “I chose philosophy mainly because I was really challenged with the classes, and I was really interested in pursuing systematic inquiry and the analysis of court cases.”

Speitel, who is considering attending law school after graduating, adds, “In addition to learning about research design and legal scholarship, I am excited to have such a unique experience with work related to law. I am hoping to gain experience in this field and solidify many of the theoretical concepts I have studied with knowledge and exploration of the actual practices of policy implementation.”

According to Silverstein, Speitel will benefit in many ways from her involvement in this research.

“She will expand her understanding of legal scholarship on judicial implementation and abortion law. She will become familiar with research design and with the various factors that must be taken into consideration when conducting a research project. She will encounter the connection between scholarly research and the practical world of policy making and policy implementation. And, she will experience the process of transforming researching findings into a scholarly publication,” the professor says.

“Working with Professor Silverstein is great!” Speitel comments. “She and I are both so interested in our research, which makes everything even more interesting and exciting. We are making great progress and I really feel more like an equal than an assistant. I hope that many other students will be able to work with such an interesting professor and project.”

“The project is progressing superbly,” Silverstein concurs. “Although we have only been working for a few weeks, we have already made solid progress in this investigation.”

Speitel says, “EXCEL is a fantastic program that offers unique opportunities for students to explore a different type of learning as well as an intellectually challenging means for an on-campus job.”

She adds, “My Lafayette experience has been filled with a variety of opportunities. I have met so many brilliant professors and had the opportunity to study what interests me most. As I am coming to the close of my undergraduate experience, I can really say that I have enjoyed every minute of it and continue to do so.”

A graduate of Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken, Speitel serves as an associate representative of Student Government. She is a member of the Student Appeals Committee and Pi Beta Phi sorority. She also studies classical ballet.

Categorized in: Academic News