Florida Supreme Court Overturns Parental Notification Law
by Steven Ertelt
July 10, 2003
Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that a pro-life law allowing parents to be notified 48 hours prior to their teenage daughter having an abortion is a violation of the right to privacy guaranteed under the state Constitution.
Unlike the U.S. Constitution and that of other states, the Florida constitution specifically includes a right to privacy and pro-life groups say the state Supreme Court has misused it to overturn pro-life laws before. In 1989, the Florida Supreme Court overturned a pro-life law requiring parental consent prior to a minor girl obtaining an abortion for the same reason.
"Parents need to know when someone performs surgery on their daughters. Teens have experienced serious complications and death from legal abortions in Florida. Evidence shows that after parental involvement laws are put in effect, the teenage pregnancy rate goes down, the teenage abortion rate goes down,” responded Robin Hoffman, President of Florida Right to Life.
Justice Leander Shaw said the court based their decision on law rather than morality.
"We recognize that the legal issue of abortion has been one of the most gut-wrenching, emotionally laden issues of the past decades in Florida," Shaw wrote. "Sitting as a court, however, we cannot be ruled by emotion."
The Florida court also relied on a 2000 New Jersey Supreme Court decision overturning a parental notification law in that state.
Mary Balch, an attorney with the National Right to Life state legislative department, told LifeNews.com the court’s decision is a blow to both parents and their daughters.
"Today’s decision has no winners. Everyone loses: the parent, the minor girl and her unborn child. For the court to find that there is no compelling reason to protect parent’s rights to be involved in their daughter’s life while she is experiencing a crisis pregnancy is beyond belief, I’m sure that the people of Florida will be surprised to learn that the parents do not have a right to know," Balch explained.
Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead and Justices Peggy Quince and Barbara Pariente concurred with Shaw but each also wrote separate opinions. Justice R. Fred Lewis agreed with the majority opinion’s result but not its reasoning.
Justice Charles Wells dissented, essentially saying that the majority based much of its decision on case law that is "irrelevant." Wells said that since the law in question dealt with notification rather consent, it is subject to less strict scrutiny and the teenager’s expectation of a "right to privacy" is lessened.
According to National Right to Life, 38 states have parental involvement laws and 25 are currently in effect. In those states with such laws, the number of abortions has decreased.
The Florida state legislature passed the pro-life law in 1999 but it was never enforced because abortion advocates immediately took it to court.
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