News Law and Policy

Montana Blocked From Defending Parental Involvement Laws

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A Montana judge ruled that attorneys for the State of Montana cannot defend two recent parental involvement laws because courts in the state have previously ruled similar restrictions unconstitutional.

On Friday, a court ruled that attorneys for the State of Montana cannot defend two recent parental involvement laws because courts in the state have previously ruled similar restrictions unconstitutional.

The two laws at issue represent Montana’s latest attempts to curb abortion access for juveniles in the state. The first is the state’s 2012 parental notification ballot measure, which has been in effect since January 1, 2013. The second law is the Montana Parental Consent for Abortion Act of 2013, which, among other things, sought to repeal the parental notification ballot measure and replace it with a stricter law that would have required all Montana minors to obtain notarized parental consent before having an abortion.

In May 2013, the Planned Parenthood of Montana and a Montana physician, represented by attorneys from the Billings firm Crist, Krogh & Nord, LLC and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, sued to challenge both the 2012 parental notice ballot measure and the 2013 parental consent bill, arguing both laws violate the privacy and equal protection rights in the Montana Constitution. In June 2013, attorneys for the the state agreed to allow a court to preliminarily block the parental consent bill, preventing it from taking effect, while the legal challenge to the measures proceeded. Attorneys for the state also raised a preliminary question for the court to answer: Did an earlier case that struck as unconstitutional a Montana parental notification law predating both the 2012 ballot measure and the 2013 consent act bar the state from moving forward in defense of these latest restrictions?

The answer to that question, the court ruled Friday, is yes. In its ruling, the court explained that a “determination has already been made that the compelling state interests advanced by the State in support of these enactments are not sufficient to support the violation of constitutional rights of a pregnant minor seeking an abortion.” Because these two new laws are so similar to one already ruled unconstitutional, and because this latest legal challenge in effect presents for the court those same legal issues, the court reasoned, the question of whether parental notification or consent requirements are allowed under the Montana Constitution should be considered settled law.

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“This ruling is not only a victory for Planned Parenthood’s patients, but for all Montana families,” said Martha Stahl, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Montana, in a statement following the ruling. “Now the question is whether Attorney General will accept this ruling that protects the rights and health of the young women of Montana, or force the state to spend more resources on litigating laws held unconstitutional more than a decade ago.”

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood may now ask the court to permanently block the laws while the state attorney general considers whether to appeal.

The decision to prevent the state from moving forward with its defense of the two parental involvement statutes came on the heels of the Montana Judicial Standards Commission filing a formal complaint with the state supreme court against District Judge G. Todd Baugh related to comments and oversight of a high-profile child rape case. Baugh came under national scrutiny after saying that a 14-year-old rape victim was “older than her chronological age” to explain sentencing her rapist to just one month in prison. Baugh has since apologized for his handling of the case and for his comments and has said he plans to retire at the end of the year.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.