Supreme Court Backs Parental Involvement on Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 20, 2023   |   11:57AM   |   Washington, DC

The Supreme Court issued a ruling on Monday that essentially supported parental involvement laws on abortion.

The case before the nation’s highest court involved a 17-year-old girl from Missouri who wanted to avoid the state’s parental consent law and have a secret abortion without her parents knowing. The state, which now bans abortions, had a parental consent law that only allowed not informing and receiving permission from parents for an abortion if a judge agreed to a bypass — which is typically meant for cases in which there is abuse at home.

During the process of the teen’s judicial bypass application, Michelle Chapman, the clerk of the circuit court in Randolph County, where the girl lived, informed her parents about the potential decision to have an abortion. The girl sued as a “Jane Doe” plaintiff in federal court, arguing that Chapman violated her right to a secret abortion by informing her parents.

Chapman argued her actions were cloaked in “quasi-judicial immunity” and said she couldn’t be sued but a lower federal court and a federal appeals court disagreed.

Before the Supreme Court could take up her appeal, both parties asked that the case be dismissed.

Today, a majority of the Supreme Court used a process known as Munsingwear vacatur to dismiss the lower court’s ruling against parental involvement so the case can’t be used as a precedent in the future — which is important for other states with parental involvement laws. The high court’s order today directed the appeals court to vacate the judgment in the case out of Missouri and declare it moot.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson disagreed and issued a written dissent saying the Supreme Court is using this process too often.

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“Our common-law system assumes that judicial decisions are valuable and should not be cast aside lightly,” she said.

“Whatever the parties might have seen fit to agree to, we have long recognized that the equities generally do not favor Munsingwear vacatur when the party requesting such relief played a role in rendering the case moot,” she said.

However, that lower court decision, issued last April by the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seems moot as a result of the Supreme Court’s momentous Dobbs ruling last June that overturned Roe v. Wade.

No other justice joined her dissent, including the other liberals on the court. The Supreme Court issued no opinion or detailed explanation for its action.