Planned Parenthood broke the parental notification law with 2002 procedure on 17-year-old without first telling her parents, a judge has ruled, leaving the site facing thousands of dollars in damages.
However, PP officials don’t believe the site broke the state’s parental-notification law and will ask the judge to reconsider his ruling. State law generally requires abortion sites to notify parents before performing abortions on minors, but the St. Paul clinic’s staff didn’t do so when it performed the procedure 26Dec02.
Staff members considered the teenager legally “emancipated” from her parents and able to consent to the abortion because she had previously had a baby.
The parents, using pseudonyms for themselves and their daughter, sued in May for more than $50,000 in damages. They argued that the girl, then a high school senior, was still dependent on her parents for guidance and financial support.
Ramsey County District Judge David Higgs agreed with the parents. In an Oct. 6 order, Higgs found that Planned Parenthood was liable for failing to notify them in writing of the impending abortion. The judge set aside three days for a trial in April so a jury could decide damages if the parties can’t reach a settlement. “My clients feel the relationship between a minor and parents have been breached by this,” said attorney John Angell, who represents the parents.
“They have a right to be notified and respond accordingly. They were never notified.” Minnesota is one of 44 states with either a parental-consent or parental-notification law, according to Planned Parenthood.
Under Minnesota’s 1981 notification law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, “unemanicipated” minors must notify both parents 48 hours before receiving an abortion or get a judge’s permission.
The lawsuit did not challenge the heart of the notification law. The family’s filing focused on how the law determines when minors are able to make their health decisions, without their parents’ input. Coursey said Planned Parenthood would consider appealing to a higher court if the judge did not reverse his ruling.
The girl’s parents argued that Minnesota’s parental-notification law does not explicitly exempt minors who have previously given birth. They said they were involved in all aspects of her life, even though the 17-year-old had moved into her own apartment three months before the abortion.
The judge sided with the parents that lawmakers “went to great lengths to create a wholly separate statute, which carves out consent and parental-notification requirements for specific health services such as a minor’s abortion procedure.”
“They are good for parents and they are good for their minor daughters. Parents need and want to be involved in their daughter’s medical-care and health care decisions,” said Bill Poehler, a spokesman for MCCL. “They work if the abortion sites follow the rules and respect the law.”
Minnesota doctors performed 13,788 abortions last year. Five percent of the women undergoing the procedure were younger than 18, according to a report published annually by the MN Dept of Health.[Shannon Prather, 13Oct05, St. Paul Pioneer Press; PLAM]