Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today joined a 19-state coalition supporting Indiana’s appeal to the Supreme Court in defense of its parental consent statute for minors who are seeking an abortion. His amicus (“friend-of-the-court” brief) was filed in the United States Supreme Court after the Chicago-based Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit blocked a law requiring parents to receive notice when a judge approves a request for a judicial bypass from an unemancipated minor so that she may have an abortion without parental consent.
“As the Supreme Court has previously recognized, nurturing his or her child is ‘high duty’ of any parent,” AG Paxton said. “Never is this parental duty of custody, care, and guidance more necessary than when minors make the irrevocable, life-altering decision to have an abortion.”
Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. arose out of a 2017 Indiana law, which (as Courthouse News summarized) requires “a judge to notify the parents of an unemancipated minor if the judge approves her petition for a judicial bypass and authorizes her abortion.” The law was enjoined at the district court, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction.
However, when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo last summer, it vacated the Seventh Circuit ruling and ordered that court to revisit the suit. A three-judge Seventh Circuit panel upheld the injunction last March, and as a result, Indiana is now appealing to the Supreme Court to hear the case since the circuit courts of appeal have split on the legality of parental notification.
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Paxton’s amicus begins
The Seventh Circuit has left intact an injunction against an Indiana statute requiring that the parents of an unemancipated minor receive notice when their child decides to have an abortion without parental consent. And the court did so without really considering the compelling interest that States have in encouraging parental involvement in these kinds of life-altering decisions. In other words, the court disregarded the important interest that States have in protecting minors’ welfare—an interest that this Court has repeatedly affirmed.
The amici States seek to protect the most vulnerable members of society—children—as they face consequential decisions like whether to have an abortion.
AG Paxton highlights a crucial distinction: “There is no question that States have a greater ability to regulate abortion access for minors than they do for adults.”
That is why this Court has upheld parental-consent statutes for minors that might not survive scrutiny if applied to adults. Yet, in the decision below, the Seventh Circuit affirmed an injunction against Indiana’s parental-notice statute without meaningfully acknowledging the distinction between laws affecting minors and laws affecting adults. By doing so, the Seventh Circuit ignored longstanding precedent from this Court that firmly establishes the States’ heightened interest in protecting the well-being of children.
In a press release, AG Paxton explained
“Texans traditionally respect and uphold parents’ right to raise their children as they see fit, and the Seventh Circuit has repeatedly upheld these ideals in previous opinions but failed to do so here. The Supreme Court now has a chance to restore parental liberty and the wellbeing of minors while giving parents room to teach and guide their children.”