A parental consent law in Montana has only been in effect for a few months, but the state legislature has already decided it is broad enough. Now, a much broader blanket consent measure has been made law, despite the governor’s refusal to sign the bill into law. The next question is whether it will ever actually be enacted, or if it will be immediately blocked for violating the state constitution.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock refused to sign the new parental consent bill passed during the legislative session, allowing it to become law despite his lack of approval. As a result, the state will now require any girl under age 18 to get permission from a parent before terminating a pregnancy. This is a major change from the law just enacted in February requiring notification of a parent only if the teen is 15 or younger.
The prior age limit was approved by voters during the 2012 election as part of a statewide ballot initiative. The specific ag was suggested after legal experts told the legislature that requiring parental consent for an older teen would violate her right to privacy as guaranteed in the Montana constitution.
According to the Associated Press, the refusal to sign or veto the law was a deliberate strategy by the governor, both to set up the potential legal challenge for this requirement and to stop the legislature from doing another statewide referendum like the one that passed last fall. Without a veto to try to override, a referendum isn’t a viable option, and with precedent on their side, reproductive rights groups feel confident that the courts will once more uphold the right to privacy guaranteed under the state constitution, even if the person seeking an abortion is a minor.
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Parental notification was part of a package of 2012 referendum around eliminating abortion access in Montana sponsored by Republicans hoping that the ballot initiatives would help drive more voters to the polls on election day.