Planned Parenthood and ACLU Urge Appeals Court to Strike Down Idaho's Extreme Parental Consent Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Idaho
September 12, 2003 12:00 am

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SEATTLE -Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union today urged a federal appeals court to strike down Idaho’s parental consent law, calling it one of the most dangerous and extreme laws of its kind in the nation.

“”This law heartlessly prevents teens with serious medical conditions from getting the abortions they need to protect their health and lives,”” said Rebecca Poedy, President of Planned Parenthood Association of Idaho. “”And in the process, it threatens to put doctors in jail for providing critical emergency care to their patients.””

The law in question prevents teens under 18 from having an abortion unless they get the written consent of a parent or, for those who cannot tell a parent, permission from a judge. Contrary to U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the law lacks an adequate exception to protect teens’ health and lives. In addition, the law subjects a doctor who provides an emergency abortion to criminal penalties and the loss of his or her license, and it fails to guarantee that teens who need to go to court will be represented by an attorney and receive a timely hearing.

“”Most teens involve their parents in their abortion decisions, but for those teens who can’t because they have good reason to believe that they will get beat up or forced to leave home, the law lacks an adequate alternative,”” said Helene Krasnoff, an attorney with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who argued the case today before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “”By expecting teens to appear in court without attorneys who will argue on their behalf and allowing judges to indefinitely delay deciding a teen’s request to have an abortion, the law forsakes the most vulnerable young women.””

In December 2001, a federal district court in Idaho struck down many sections of the law. For example, the court struck a requirement that judges must inform the police about teenagers who seek a court waiver so that their teenage boyfriends can be prosecuted for statutory rape. The court also blocked a provision that gave teens only two days to appeal the denial of a parental consent waiver from a judge. The court, however, failed to strike down the entire law. Both sides appealed that decision. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU urged the court today to uphold the lower court’s decision blocking sections of the law and asked the court to strike what remains of this extreme and unconstitutional measure.

“Idaho’s law is uniquely and unnecessarily Draconian and restrictive, even for a parental involvement law,”” said Jack Van Valkenburgh, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho. “”No other parental consent law in the country obstructs teens’ access to emergency abortions in this way and no other law penalizes young women who have to go to court by turning their boyfriends over to the police. The state should be safeguarding teens’ health, not jeopardizing it.””

In support of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU’s challenge, leading medical groups, including the American Public Health Association and the Society for Adolescent Medicine, filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing this unsafe law.

Today’s case is Planned Parenthood v. Lance, Case Nos. 02-35700 and 02-35714. Lawyers on the brief include Krasnoff, Roger Evans, and Dara Klassel of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Jennifer Dalven and Louise Melling of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

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