Planned Parenthood files parental consent lawsuit

May 30, 2013, 5:31 pm

By KATHRYN HAAKE

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Planned Parenthood of Montana filed a lawsuit on Thursday asking a court to toss out new restrictions on minors seeking an abortion.

Documents filed in District Court in Helena say the new state law requiring females younger than 18 to obtain parental consent before getting access to abortions violates Montana's constitutional right to privacy.

The abortion rights advocates also asked the court to overturn a less stringent parental notification law for those under 16 approved by voters last year.

The tougher new law requires parental permission while the other focuses on younger teens and only requires parents to be informed prior to an abortion.

The consent law, when implemented, repealed the notification statute. If the court tosses the consent law, the notification statute would go back into place. The lawsuit aims to strike both.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights advocates argue that both statutes jeopardize the health of minors.

Montana Planned Parenthood Director of Public Affairs Stacey Anderson said the law could come between a teen and her health care.

"Laws like these can't force teens to talk to their parents, and the sad truth is some teens live in dangerous homes and can't go to their parents," Anderson said in a statement.

The organization also filed an injunction to block House Bill 391 from becoming law while the courts are adjudicating it.

Backers of the law argue it makes sense and believe voters are in favor of such measures that ensure parents are involved in such decisions. They say minors need parents' consent for a wide array of medical procedures and school activities, and abortion should be no different.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Bennett, R-Libby, said he is confident the measure will hold up in court, in part because of a judicial bypass component that allows minors to seek permission from a judge, forgoing parental consent, to get an abortion.

That component was missing from a similar measure passed by the 1995 Legislature, he said.

The Montana Supreme Court struck down that abortion measure, ruling the state constitution's right-to-privacy provision gives females the right to decide whether to get a legal abortion.

Gov. Steve Bullock allowed the parental consent bill to become law, a move that killed an identical ballot referendum that would have sought voter approval in 2014. The strategic gamble anticipated Planned Parenthood will be successful in defeating the measure in the courts.

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