With Sandra Day O'Connor on the way out and conservative names like Alberto Gonzales being tossed around as possible replacements, abortion rights activists are getting ready for a legal brawl to defend existing legislation-and maybe even for a re-examination of Roe v. Wade. But in the meantime, they have scored a somewhat smaller victory. An Idaho district court ruled last week-again-that Idaho's newly minted parental consent abortion law is unconstitutional. The law, which would have gone into effect on July 1, was the third attempt by the State Legislature to demand parental consent for teenagers to receive abortions, even in cases of medical emergency.
Gov. Kempthorne signed the latest parental consent bill into law on April 14, despite only slight modifications having been made to the previous versions. Namely, the new law attempted to redefine the parameters of a "medical emergency." However, the court found that the law still suffered from two flaws that had held up previous laws: It compromised the confidentiality of teens needing emergency abortions, and those for whom it is necessary to waive parental consent for personal safety or other reasons.
"[The law's] chilling effect could be substantial enough to cause the mature minor to forego the emergency procedure even if it threatened her life," the court said in its ruling.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who filed the suit in April, both applauded the decision. Rebecca Poedy, president of Planned Parenthood of Idaho, said it "established that the safety of Idaho teens is more important than a political agenda."
State Rep. Bill Sali of Kuna, the bill's sponsor, has indicated that he will continue to fight the ruling.