New Parental Consent Law Leads to Same Old Battle
On April 14, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed Idaho's latest parental consent abortion bill into law, the third time such a bill has made it into Idaho code. Just four days later, members of Planned Parenthood of Idaho and the Idaho branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in U.S. District Court in Boise to make sure that the new law ends up like the last two: struck down as unconstitutional.
The latest parental consent law came in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision on March 28 not to review the case of Planned Parenthood vs. Wasden. This declination upheld a previous Ninth Circuit Court ruling stating that Idaho's last parental consent law was unreasonably strict in its provisions about what constitutes a "medical emergency" in cases of abortion. The new legislation has a few improvements over the last version-namely, the vague qualifiers "sudden," "unexpected" and "abnormal" have been removed from the definition of a "medical emergency"-but according to Marty Durand of the ACLU, many of the group's objections follow through to the new legislation.
"A couple things got cleared up, but some ongoing issues have come back with a vengeance," Durand told BW. First and foremost, in the new law, a doctor is required to immediately notify parents after performing an abortion on a minor, and each abortion will still be subject to a judicial investigation.
Durand said that the judicial bypass described in the new law, wherein a court-appointed guardian will investigate the circumstances surrounding every medical emergency abortion and report to a judge about its necessity, are unnecessarily strict. According to the law, the guardian is required to report any perceived crime by the minor to law enforcement or a prosecuting attorney-and in cases of unwed, un-emancipated minors, that will inevitably include the antiquated crime of fornication. "Every judicial bypass will have to result in a criminal charge," Durand said.
Planned Parenthood of Idaho President Rebecca Poedy echoed Durand's criticisms, stating that "the Supreme Court has been very clear" about the inherent legal problems in parental consent laws. "The Legislature had a beautiful opportunity this year to obtain millions of dollars in federal funding for preventive medical care, which would have helped to stop unplanned pregnancies, which stop abortions," she told BW. "They need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on this kind of foolish legislation."
Both Durand and Poedy said they were "very confident" that the previous court rulings would stand concerning the new law.