by Steven Ertelt
August 16, 2006
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — The Missouri Supreme Court has announced it will hold a hearing next month on a state law that allows parents to sue abortion facilities of their staff when they help a teenager get a secret abortion out of state. A Missouri judge upheld the law as constitutional last November.
The state’s high court plans a hearing on the measure on September 13.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Charles Atwell uphled the law but also issued an injunction preventing the law from being enforced while abortion advocates appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Judge Atwell said state officials could not investigate or discipline anyone under the law until the Missouri Supreme Court hands down its ruling on the case.
Atwell first issued a temporary restraining order against enforcing the law in October after Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit. At the time, Atwell said he thought Planned Parenthood would prevail in the case and sympathized with its argument that the law violated its right to free speech by preventing it from discussing abortion with teenagers.
In his ruling, Atwell said Planned Parenthood had a right to discuss abortion with girls who go to its facilities, but he said the law would not violate those rights.
He said people would only be prosecuted under the law if they knew the girl was a minor, wanted to violate the state’s parental consent law, and assisted her in getting an abortion elsewhere.
Planned Parenthood claims it would be violating the law by talking with a teen who eventually went out of state with someone other than her parents for an abortion.
Assistant Attorney General Vickie Mahon argued that it was unfair to single out the one provision in the law and said the abortion facility’s First Amendment rights would be violated only if it encouraged teens to go out of state for secret abortions.
Atwell’s ruling applies only to the out-of-state provision in the law the legislature approved and does not apply to the admitting privileges requirement.
The law also says abortion practitioners must have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case of a botched abortion and that provision is already partly responsible for closing an abortion center in Springfield.
Gov. Matt Blunt backed Atwell’s decision at the time.
"I am pleased this ruling reaffirms the value Missourians and I place on human life and protecting our most vulnerable citizens," Blunt said. "I expect the Attorney General to vigorously defend the law during the inevitable appeals."