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Groups sue to stop parental consent law

Rebecca Boone Associated Press

BOISE – Planned Parenthood of Idaho and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, contending the state’s new law requiring parental consent for abortions violates the constitutional rights of minors.

The law, approved by the Idaho Legislature this year, retooled the state’s requirement that minors seeking an abortion – short of a medical emergency – either obtain parental consent or prove to a judge that they are mature enough to make the decision without their parents’ knowledge. An earlier version was struck down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The challenge was filed in U.S. District Court.

“We believe this law is unconstitutional, just like its predecessor was,” said ACLU lawyer Marty Durand. “This law fails in many respects. What it does is create a more elaborate method of parental consent.”

The new version allows minors to be represented by a lawyer in court, and requires that a guardian ad litem be appointed to investigate the minor’s situation. The law also requires that the court guardian report to law enforcement any suspicion of criminal activity. Under Idaho law, fornication outside of marriage is a criminal act, though rarely prosecuted.

Rebecca Poedy, the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Idaho, said the new law was dangerous and could put teens at risk of homelessness and abuse by disapproving parents. She said lawmakers’ efforts would be better focused on preventing teen pregnancy.

“If all teenagers came from model, ideal families this might not be so dangerous,” Poedy said. “We know that this law will not reduce abortion in Idaho.”

Rep. William Sali, R-Kuna, who sponsored the parental consent bill, said he had expected another court battle but was confident the new law would be upheld.

“We did not enact a new law – we just made some technical corrections, if you will, to our existing law,” Sali said. “The whole point behind making those corrections is to address the points that were brought up in court.”

Since Idaho enacted its first parental consent law in 2000, the number of teen abortions performed in the state has dropped by 30 percent, Sali claimed.

“The proof’s kind of in the pudding – 125 lives have been saved,” Sali said.

Spokesmen for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Idaho State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden declined comment, saying they had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.

In court papers, Planned Parenthood claims the latest law “contains two provisions that are virtually identical to provisions this court already held were unconstitutional: a requirement that a physician notify a parent after a minor has an abortion in a medical emergency situation; and a requirement that a report be made to law enforcement if a minor who seeks a waiver of the parental consent requirement has engaged in criminal activity – which in Idaho includes all minors who engage in sexual activity.”

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