June 11, 2008 -- A Georgia mother who did not think her teenage son was ready to be a father was sentenced to a year in jail last week for illegally signing a parent consent form for his 16-year-old pregnant girlfriend so she could get an abortion.
The lawyer representing the teenage girl said today that he's considering a civil suit against the Atlanta clinic that performed the abortion, suggesting the clinic might be soliciting abortions from underage girls.
Cindi Cook, 44, received the maximum possible sentence for a misdemeanor crime in Georgia last week after a judge found her guilty of violating the state's parental notification law and interfering with child custody. She will serve the one-year jail term in the DeKalb County Detention Center.
Cook was originally charged in January after she signed the consent form with her own name but dishonestly claimed to be the girl's mother. She chose a bench trial over a jury trial, unsuccessfully defending herself in the case.
No one answered the phone at Cook's Atlanta-area home.
DeKalb County Solicitor-General Robert James, who prosecuted Cook's case, said that he had never seen a case in which a mother so clearly overstepped her bounds in making a decision for another family's daughter.
"Ms. Cook's conduct was reprehensible," James told ABC News. "I think it's inappropriate for one parent to make a decision about another parent's child, especially an abortion or any serious medical procedure."
Though she was not present at the clinic for the abortion procedure, the consent note with Cook's signature was used as evidence in the trial.
"Ms. Cook got herself in trouble when she held herself out to be the victim's mother," James said, "and when she executed a document that defined her as such."
"She actually got on the phone and found a clinic that would proceed without her being there," James said.
Clinic at Fault?
S. Fenn Little Jr., the attorney representing the teenage girl and her family, condemned Cook's behavior and also raised questions about the role of the Northside Women's Clinic, where the teenager had the abortion in May 2007, in the illegal abortion.
"It was very clear from the testimony at the trial that the girl was coerced and very much strong-armed into getting this abortion that she opposed, that her parents opposed and that at one point, the boy opposed," Little told ABC News. Cook's motivation, he said, was a fear that having a child might jeopardize her son's college plans.
The teenage girl told her parents about the abortion about a month after the procedure, Little said, and her parents called the police, triggering the investigation.
Little said he is considering a civil case against the Atlanta-based clinic.
"The issue is going to be whether this particular clinic was essentially soliciting underage girls seeking abortions," Little said.
Under Georgia state law, anyone under the age of 18 who is not married and not in an emergency medical scenario must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at the time of the abortion. The requirement can be waived if certain notification steps are made.
"There are some confirmation steps that you've got to take if there's a note, and they did not do that. They essentially directed Ms. Cook on how to have the abortion without taking those confirmation steps," Little said.
James, the solicitor-general, continues to look into whether the clinic failed to follow the Georgia code.
"My best answer is I don't know," James said. "Now we're looking to make sure the clinic did everything they were supposed to do and were in line with the law."
Cook learned that her son's 16-year-old girlfriend was pregnant when she read a text message on his cell phone. The woman began contacting the teen, urging her not to tell her parents and offering to pay for the abortion and arrange for the procedure, according to James.
The Atlanta-based Northside Women's Clinic offers pregnant women abortions up to the 15th week of pregnancy. The anonymous procedure requires a minor surgery and the whole visit takes about two hours, according to a description on the clinic's Web site, which also lays out the clinic's policy for prospective patients under 18 years of age.
"Unmarried patients under the age of 18 are required by Georgia State law to have a parent notification note," according to the clinic's Web site. "This note needs to state that your legal guardian or parent is aware that you are terminating your pregnancy, and then they date and sign that note."
The note becomes a permanent part of your medical record and is kept confidential," the Web site reads.
Little said that the Georgia law is not nearly as simple as the clinic describes.
The Northside Women's Clinic did not return a phone call from ABC News for comment.