For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: March 28, 2005
U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Parental Consent Case
(Boise) - The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to review the case of Planned Parenthood v. Wasden. The case involves Idaho's parental consent statute relating to minors seeking an abortion.
"While we had hoped the Supreme Court would take this opportunity to resolve a split among the circuits, we also recognize that the Court can hear only a small number of the many cases presented each year," Attorney General Wasden said.
Attorney General Wasden filed a petition for certiorari on November 22, 2004. The petition sought review of a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finding that the medical emergency exception to Idaho's parental consent statute was unreasonable. As a result of the Ninth Circuit's ruling, Idaho's entire parental consent provisions were struck down as unconstitutional.
The Idaho Senate is currently considering legislation that would adopt a new definition of medical emergency and restore Idaho's parental consent requirement. The bill, House Bill 351, has been passed by the House of Representatives.
In June 2000, Planned Parenthood and Dr. Glenn H. Weyhrich filed suit to enjoin the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney and the Attorney General from enforcing Idaho's parental consent statutes.
The law requires that a minor must obtain parental consent prior to receiving an abortion. One of the exceptions included cases of a medical emergency. At the preliminary injunction stage, Planned Parenthood argued that the definition of medical emergency was unreasonable. Specifically, it objected to the words "sudden," "unexpected" and "abnormal" contained in the definition. Planned Parenthood argued that because the medical emergency exception was unreasonable, the entire parental consent statute should be invalidated.
The federal district court rejected these arguments, determining that the medical emergency exception was reasonable because it could be interpreted broadly enough to protect the constitutional interests of individuals seeking emergency abortions. The district court described the medical emergency definition as containing language "very similar to the language approved in Casey," a case in which the United States Supreme Court considered and upheld Pennsylvania's medical emergency provision.
Following a trial in September of 2001, the district court issued an opinion leaving most of Idaho's parental consent laws intact. Specifically, the District Court determined that all conditions necessitating a need for an immediate abortion to protect the minor's life and health fit within the medical emergency exception.
The Ninth Circuit reversed that decision, finding the exception unreasonable. The Ninth Circuit specifically found the words "sudden," "unexpected" and "abnormal" made the medical emergency provision unreasonable and that those terms could not be severed from the definition.
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