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Planned Parenthood Sues to Block Montana Parental Consent, Notification Laws

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A lawsuit filed Thursday challenges the state's brand new parental consent law and an older, less stringent parental notification measure.

Planned Parenthood of Montana filed suit in district court Thursday in an effort to block new parental consent restrictions on minors needing abortion care, and to overturn a different parental notification law as well.

The first of the laws challenged requires parental permission for anyone under age 18 before terminating a pregnancy, while the second piece of legislation, a parental notification law approved by voters as a ballot initiative last year, requires that the parents of anyone under 16 be notified prior to a pregnancy termination.

Montana Planned Parenthood Director of Public Affairs Stacey Anderson said the lawsuit is necessary to protect the health of teenagers in the state. “Laws like these can’t force teens to talk to their parents, and the sad truth is some teems live in dangerous homes and can’t go to their parents,” Anderson said in a statement.

The lawsuit will test the limits of a Montana Supreme Court ruling that struck a 1995 parental consent bill, ruling that the state constitution’s right-to-privacy provisions give women the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. That earlier parental consent law did not have any judicial bypass provision allowing minors to forge parental consent in lieu of permission from a judge. The parental consent measure passed this legislative session has a judicial bypass procedure.

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The outcome of the lawsuit will determine the scope of what, if any, restrictions for minors seeking abortion care will exist in the state. The parental consent law has not yet been implemented, but the notification statute is in effect. The consent law is designed repeal the less-stringent notification law, but should the court block the consent law then the notification statute would remain in place. The lawsuit challenges both statutes, so it is possible, though less likely, that the court could block both laws.

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