LOS ANGELES – Citing a teenager’s right to privacy, the California Supreme Court August 5 overturned the law here that requires minors to get parental consent or a judge’s approval before having an abortion.
The so-called parental consent law, which was passed by the California legislature in 1987, generally has not been enforced as it wound its way through the courts. But it has been a lightning rod in both the abortion battle and the debate over the role of the courts in countering legislative actions.
A number of other states have laws requiring parental consent for abortions for minors and they have been upheld under the federal constitutional standards.
But the closely watched 4 to 3 ruling was based on a minor’s right to privacy under the state constitution, a right approved by voters here in 1972 and interpreted by the California courts more broadly than federal privacy protections.
Writing the majority opinion, California Chief Justice Ronald George wrote, “No one would doubt the value to a pregnant minor of wise and caring parental guidance and support . . . assuming such support is available and the minor is willing to seek it.”
But the justice added that the overturned law “has its most significant impact in those instances in which a pregnant minor is too frightened or too embarrassed to disclose her condition to a parent.”
The decision was attacked by pro-life activists and State Attorney General Dan Lungren, who denounced judicial challenges to legislative authority.
“Californians regularly endure the rulings of federal judges who disregard the will of the electorate and their democratically elected representatives,” Lungren said, referring to a list of propositions, such as those denying services to illegal immigrants, that have ended up in federal courts.
“Unfortunately, the majority decision provides an astonishingly similar example of disregard for legislative authority within our state courts,” Lungren said.
Lungren was particularly incensed that the parental consent law had been upheld by the California Supreme Court only last year, but that with the departure of two justices who supported the law, the high court agreed to reexamine the case — and overturned its previous decision.
Lungren pointed out that when the California Supreme Court upheld the law in 1996, state Justice Stanley Mosk, speaking then for the majority, held that minors have fewer legal rights than adults — and that they cannot, without parental consent, obtain most medical services, including routine X-rays.
“This is clearly judicial activism and a political decision,” said Brian Johnston, executive director of California ProLife Council, a pro-life group.
– Washington Post via Pro-Life E-News Canada