by Steven Ertelt
May 7, 2007
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — The Missouri Supreme Court last week upheld a state law requiring teenagers seeking an abortion to get their parents’ permission beforehand. Pro-life lawmakers and groups strongly supported the law saying that teens must get the approval of their parents for numerous other activities but not abortion.
They also hoped the law would help to further reduce the number of abortions in Missouri.
The state has seen its numbers drop over the last two decades following the enactment of pro-life laws and vigorous educational campaigns.
The law, approved in September 2005, also includes a provision that allows someone to file a lawsuit against anyone who helps a minor obtain an abortion outside of Missouri without parental or judicial consent.
Backers of the law hoped the provision would help curb the number of teenagers that are taken just over the border in large cities like St. Louis and Kansas City.
The Hope Clinic For Women, an abortion business in Granite City, Illinois, a St. Louis suburb, has long been criticized for helping teenagers break the Missouri notification law and promoting secret abortions in advertising there.
During the state high court’s hearing on the lawsuit,
Eve Gartner, a lawyer for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the state’s high court that the law would even penalize clergy who discuss abortion options with teenagers, because it claims the statute is too vaguely worded.
The law says no one can "aid and assist" a teen in getting the abortion and Gartner told the court, "The plain meaning of these words does include speech."
But Chief Justice Michael Wolff disagreed and told Gartner nothing in the law "has anything to do with speech."
He indicated the law only criminalizes the actual conduct of taking a teenage to another state for an abortion.
In the decision, the state Supreme Court ruling said the law "cannot be construed to include protected activities such as providing information and counseling."
The court also rejected a claim that the law violated the commerce clause to the U.S. Constitution by requiring abortion centers in other states to comply with Missouri’s parental consent requirements. Abortion businesses in other states that follow their own state laws cannot be held liable for damages under Missouri’s new law, the court ruled.
Strangely, Gartner called the decision a victory, saying "As it concerns free speech, this was a 100% victory."
But Sen. John Loudon (R), author of the law, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the victory instead belongs to parents, who have been unable to prevent their daughters from crossing state lines to obtain abortions.
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (R) in a statement said the court’s decision is a "victory in our efforts to establish a culture that values all human life."
"Parents must be informed of their children’s decision to end an innocent life, and today’s ruling upholds that belief," he said.
The office of Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon (D) said the law immediately took effect Tuesday as a result of the court’s ruling.
A Missouri judge upheld the law as constitutional in November 2005.