A Montana law requiring unmarried girls to notify a parent or get a judge’s approval before undergoing an abortion was upheld Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court reversed a decision by a federal judge in Montana overturning the law.
U.S. District Judge James Battin of Billings had ruled in December 1995 that the law wrongly limits a girl’s ability to escape parental notice by demanding she prove to a Youth Court judge that informing her parents was not in her best interest.
A group of doctors had argued that it often would be easier to prove an abortion would be in a girl’s best interest than to show that telling a parent would be against her interest. Battin agreed, and his decision was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a unanimous but unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court disagreed.
The decision was applauded by abortion foes in Montana, while the abortion-rights group that challenged the law said it hoped to find other grounds to overturn the statute.
Richard Tappe, executive director of Montana Right to Life, said the ruling would protect young girls from abortions.
Parents should have a say in such a surgical procedure because they may have important medical information that a daughter is unwilling share with her doctor, he said. In addition, the law may prevent some abortions. Tappe said.
“A minor girl who is pregnant has a big problem, but aborting her child does not solve the problem,” he said. “It simply makes her the young mother of a dead baby.”
Tappe said the court decision makes this the “first piece of pro-life legislation” to become law in Montana since the Supreme Court declared a woman’s right to abortion in 1973.
Republican Rep. Duane Grimes of Clancy, who sponsored the parentalnotice bill, also praised the decision.
“From now on, no parent has to worry about their child having major surgery for abortion without knowing about it,” Grimes said. “This is a victory for parents, not only in Montana but everywhere.”
But the abortion-rights organization that challenged the law said it was disappointed.
“We know that mandating parental involvement in every young women’s abortion decision ignores the troubled realities of some families,” said Simon Heller, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York.
However, Heller said the organization still hopes to overturn the law based on other provisions that deny young women “the confidential and expeditious alternative” mandated in previous court decisions.
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