In A Victory for Privacy Rights, Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Parental Notification Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 10, 2003 12:00 am

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TALLAHASSEE, FL – Saying Florida’s parental notification law violates a woman’s right to privacy, the Florida Supreme Court today struck down a law requiring physicians to notify a parent or legal guardian before performing an abortion on a young woman.

“We are pleased that the court invalidated a law that is completely unnecessary,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case along with the national ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Most teens voluntarily involve their parents in their decisions, but those who don’t often have very good reasons for not doing so. When the state forces parents to be involved, the consequences are often catastrophic.”

At issue was a Florida law — the Parental Notice of Abortion Act — that required a minor to notify a parent prior to obtaining an abortion or convince a court to grant her an exception to the requirement. Although Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed the law in 1999, it never went into effect because of the legal challenge that was filed soon thereafter.

In today’s ruling, the court held that “parent and minor are free to do as they wish in this regard, without government interference.” The decision was based on a 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling in In Re: T.W., which held that a law requiring parental consent for an abortion violated the right to privacy.

“We are relieved that the court understood the danger that this law poses for many young women in Florida,” said Julie Sternberg, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and a one of the authors of the ACLU brief. “The law would have put teens at grave risk, seriously and needlessly hampering them from getting critical health care.”

The case was brought on behalf of nine abortion providers and clinics, as well as women’s rights groups from across Florida. They are represented by Bebe Anderson of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Richard E. Johnson, a board member of the ACLU of Florida, and Dara Klassel of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In addition to the national ACLU and its Florida affiliate, the Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, Society for Adolescent Medicine, and the Women’s Law Project also submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in the case.

The case is North Florida Women’s Health & Counseling Services, Inc., et al. v. State of Florida, et al., No. SC01-843. Lawyers for the ACLU briefs include: Randall Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida, Julie Sternberg and Louise Melling of the national ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

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