Montana Supreme Court Says State Can Defend Parental Involvement Statutes

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Montana Supreme Court Says State Can Defend Parental Involvement Statutes

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A decision Tuesday overturns a lower court ruling that said attorneys for the state were precluded by earlier court rulings from defending two recent parental involvement statutes.

The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed a lower court decision blocking state attorneys from defending the constitutionality of two recent parental involvement laws.

Planned Parenthood of Montana and Dr. Paul Frederick Henke in May 2013 challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 2012 parental notification ballot measure and the Montana Parental Consent for Abortion Act of 2013, which would require all Montana minors obtain notarized parental consent before having an abortion.

In early 2014, a district court ruled that attorneys for the State of Montana were precluded from defending the constitutionality of the two parental involvement laws because courts in the state have previously ruled similar restrictions unconstitutional.

Tuesday’s 4-1 decision from the Montana Supreme Court reverses that ruling, holding that there are sufficient differences between the laws at issue in the present case and previous parental involvement restrictions ruled unconstitutional by Montana courts.

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“Make no mistakethis is not over,” Martha Stahl, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana, said in a statement following the ruling. “Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for the young women of Montana. We remain fully confident that these laws are not only bad health policy, but also clear violations of young Montana women’s constitutional rights.”

Republican Montana Attorney General Tim Fox praised Tuesday’s decision. “I am pleased with the Montana Supreme Court’s decision,” Fox said in a statement. “More than 70 percent of Montana voters and a majority of legislators enacted the parental notification and parental consent laws. The will of the people has been made clear.”

The case will now return to the Lewis and Clark County District Court, where Planned Parenthood and Henke’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the restrictions will proceed.