Montana Supreme Court hears legal challenge to law requiring parental consent for abortion

On March 6, the Montana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a more than decades-long case over the state’s Parental Consent for Abortion Act (HB 391) as well as a voter-approved referendum from 2012 regarding parental notification when a minor under the age of 16 seeks an abortion. The law was set to take effect without the signature of then-Gov. Steve Bullock, but never did, due to an immediate lawsuit from Planned Parenthood of Montana. Planned Parenthood of Montana also challenged the voter-approved referendum.

Designed to protect

Under the parental consent law, girls in the state under the age of 18 would have to have notarized written consent from their parent or legal guardian to undergo an abortion. Exceptions would be allowed in a medical emergency or if the minor was successful in petitioning a court to waive the requirement (known as “judicial bypass”). The case has been moving through the state judicial system, and the last ruling regarding it was handed down by District Judge Chris Abbott, who found the law invalid, arguing that it would infringe on the right to privacy in the Montana Constitution.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen has appealed Abbott’s decision. Deputy Solicitor General Brent Mead told the state Supreme Court justices last week that Abbott should have analyzed the law differently because the Montana Constitution grants the state more authority to make laws that affect the rights of minors. He said the 1999 Supreme Court decision in Armstrong v. State, which said abortion was covered by the state constitution’s right to privacy does not apply to this law.

“Under Article 2, Section 15, a minor’s rights can be infringed if the law is designed to protect them,” said Mead. “And so in this case, the full Article 2, Section 10 – the right to privacy – doesn’t attach because the law is designed to protect them in that protected interest.”

Planned Parenthood argued that Abbott did use the right standard in deciding the case because the state, it said, would have to point to a legitimate health or safety risk to the minors.

Failing victims of abuse

Parental consent for abortion protects minors from coerced abortion and can help rescue them from abusive situations. Live Action’s Aiding Abusers investigation found that Planned Parenthood employees at seven facilities across several states were aiding actors posing as sex traffickers by counseling them on how to get their victims tested for STIs, the best way to get them abortions, and how to lie on forms about their victims’ ages.

The investigation also revealed real-life cases in which Planned Parenthood helped child rapists. One man, Sage Robert Lanza, was sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, whom he took for an abortion at Planned Parenthood under pressure. He drove her to the appointment where the abortion was committed, and the victim was returned to her abuser. Planned Parenthood is a mandated reporter of abuse and, therefore, should have contacted authorities, but arrest records indicate that Planned Parenthood failed to do so.

Planned Parenthood also failed to report the rape of a 15-year-old after a staffer said it “wasn’t worth the hassle” to contact authorities.

In addition, a 2014 study on sex trafficking published by the Loyola University Chicago’s Beazley Institute documented how traffickers often force their victims to get abortions so they can quickly get them back to work. As Live Action News previously noted, the report found that victims had “significant contact with clinical treatment facilities, most commonly Planned Parenthood.” In fact, Planned Parenthood was the top most-visited facility for trafficking victims, second only to hospital emergency rooms.

In December, Planned Parenthood in Kansas City was caught on video aiding an undercover adult male reporter who was attempting to traffic a 13-year-old girl across state lines for an abortion. Missouri law states that those 13 years old and younger cannot consent to sex with anyone. In addition, Missouri law states that no minor may consent to an abortion. In Kansas, where Planned Parenthood was going to send the girl for an abortion, the age of consent is 16, and parental consent is required for a minor to undergo an abortion.

Minors and ‘privacy rights’

This is how parental consent laws protect minors.

Mead made a comparison argument before the justices. “We prohibit minors from exercising entirely the fundamental right to privacy, as applied to the intimate choice to marry if they are under 16,” he said, noting the state law which says girls under the age of 16 can not marry, and the law that states minors under the age of 16 are not capable of consenting to sexual intercourse.

If a minor girl under age 16 is therefore seeking an abortion, it should be reported immediately by the abortion business as sexual abuse. However, history shows that Planned Parenthood repeatedly fails to protect young girls.

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