In Court Today, ACLU to Argue that Colorado's Abortion Act Will Harm Young Women

May 16, 2001 12:00 am

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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

DENVER–Appearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the American Civil Liberties Union will argue today that Colorado’s Parental Notification for Abortion Act unconstitutionally endangers the health of young women in the state.

“The Act is unique in its severity and in the danger it poses,” said Jennifer Dalven, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, who will be arguing the case before the court. “Under this Act, a pregnant teen suffering from serious health-threatening conditions requiring immediate care would have to delay critical treatment for as long as 48 hours after notifying a parent, regardless of how detrimental to her health the delay may be.”

The ACLU — which challenged the law along with Planned Parenthood on behalf of health-care providers and their minor patients — will urge the court to uphold the lower court’s ruling. That ruling, handed down last August, enjoined the Act precisely because it lacked an exception for situations in which an abortion is necessary to protect a teen’s health.

The Act, adopted by voter initiative in 1998, makes it a crime for a physician to perform an abortion for a minor unless the doctor notifies a parent and delays the abortion by as much as 48 hours. The Act contains no health exception and allows a physician to treat a teen without notifying her parents or delaying care only in those circumstances where she faces “imminent death.”

“For some teens, delaying care may have serious health consequences,” said Karen Cody Carlson, Vice President for Medical Services of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Services Corp. “If allowed to stand, this Act will put some pregnant teens at risk for cerebral hemorrhage, liver failure, kidney failure, vision problems, and coma.”

“For the past 25 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held — most recently last term in Stenberg v. Carhart — that any law restricting abortion must include an exception to protect a woman’s health or life,” added Dalven. “This Act flies in the face of these holdings.”

The case is Planned Parenthood v. Owens, No. 00-1385. Attorneys on the case are Jennifer E. Dalven and Louise Melling of the National ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Mark Silverstein, Tim Atkeson, and Keri Howe for the ACLU of Colorado, representing Boulder Abortion Clinic and Warren Hern, M.D.; and Edward T. Ramey and Kevin C. Paul, representing Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Services Corporation, Women’s Choice of Boulder Valley, Inc., Peter A. Vargas, M.D., James A. McGregor, M.D., Michael D. Rudnick, M.D., and Aris M. Sophocles, M.D.

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