Physicians and health care facilities challenged the constitutionality of Montana law requiring parental notification or court order for minors seeking an abortion. A Montana trial-level court ruled that the law violated the Montana Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and granted Plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction. That decision was not appealed.
Filing date: 10/14/97
Plaintiff(s): Susan Wicklund, M.D., James H. Armstrong, M.D., Susan Cahill, P.A., Intermountain Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood of Missoula, Clayton McCracken, M.D., and Yellowstone Valley Women’s Clinic, Inc., on behalf of themselves and their patients.
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Dara Klassel, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Roberta Anner-Hughes, Herndon, Sweeney, &, Halverson
Summary: Physicians and healthcare facilities challenged the constitutionality of Montana law requiring parental notification or court order for minors seeking an abortion. A Montana trial-level court ruled that the law violated the Montana Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and granted Plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction. That decision was not appealed.
The law passed by the Montana Legislature in 1995 would have prevented unmarried women under the age of 18 years from having an abortion in Montana unless a parent or legal guardian was notified of the planned abortion 48 hours before or the woman obtained a court order authorizing her to have an abortion without parental notification. The Center challenged the law initially in federal court, after the federal court injunction was dissolved, the Center filed a challenge in state court based on provisions in the Montana Constitution.
In our motion for summary judgment in this case, we submitted evidence demonstrating that many minors, especially younger minors, involve a parent in their decision to seek an abortion and that those who do not often have good reasons for not doing so. Other evidence demonstrated the likely harms from the law, the safety of abortion, and minors’ ability to make the decision whether to continue a pregnancy or seek an abortion. The trial court found that the law infringed minors’ right to privacy under the Montana Constitution, did not enhance the protection of minors, and treating pregnant minors who wanted to terminate their pregnancy unequally and unfairly compared to pregnant minors who choose not to do so.
The Center prevailed on its motion for summary judgment. The Defendants did not appeal that decision and the law was permanently enjoined. In its decision, the trial court noted that “the majority of pregnant minors involve a parent in decision-making about whether to obtain an abortion, and those minors who do not involve their parents often have a legitimate reason for not doing so. In those cases parental involvement is not in the minors’ best interests.”