Abortion opponents are supporting a bill which would require parental consent before a minor can get an abortion. The bill follows up on a ballot measure passed overwhelmingly by voters last fall. Legislative Referendum 120 requires parental notification prior to abortion for a minor under the age of 16. 70 percent of voters voted in favor of it and it is now state law.
The bill before the House Judiciary Committee takes the idea from LR 120 one step further. Under the new bill, HB 391, a girl under the age of 18 would need a parent’s notarized written permission before seeking an abortion. A similar measure was passed by the Legislature in 1995, but was struck down by the Montana Supreme Court in ‘99.
Montana ACLU Public Policy Director Niki Zupanic says the court pointed to the state Constitution’s strong right to privacy, which can only be overridden by a compelling state interest. The court says minors have these rights too, unless the law in question is found to enhance their safety.
“It’s that…part that is really being challenged by the law that is before you today,” Zupanic told the committee, “Does a consent requirement help minors or hurt minors?”
She says it was found to hurt minors more “by making them delay care or driving them into dangerous situations where they may harm themselves or seek an illegal abortion.”
Opponents to the new consent bill say over 90 percent of teens seeking an abortion now do consult with their parents. They say those who don’t may be afraid of parental abuse or may be pregnant due to the sexual abuse of a family member.
State Director of Montana Right to Life Greg Trude supports the consent bill. He says doctors need permission before performing other medical procedures.
“Suturs , a wart removed, a physical, a checkup, a Tylenol, they have to have parental permission,” he said.
Opponents say abortion falls under a different category.
“How many young women do you know that harm themselves because they took a tylenol, how many young women run away because of a wart, how many young women are thrown out of their homes, verbally abused or worse because of braces?” Asked Lindsey Love, speaking on behalf of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana.
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Division has submitted a legal note on the bill, saying the Supreme Court’s striking down of the similar 1995 bill brings up constitutional concerns about this bill too.
Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Lazloffy disagrees.He says the heavy majority voting in favor of last fall’s ballot initiative shows the public believes the Montana Supreme Court made a mistake.
“We had the vote on LR 120, the notification initiative, the will of the people was clearly articulated, and I believe that needs to be taken into account and I believe that proves the court went way beyond what the people wanted when they were interpreting the constitution,” he said.
The House Judiciary committee did not take a vote on the bill.