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Tenth Circuit Asked to Uphold Decision Striking Down Oklahoma Parental Consent for Abortion Law

At 1:00 p.m. on Monday, November 17, the Center for Reproductive Rights will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to affirm a lower court ruling that struck down an Oklahoma parental consent for abortion law. In June 2002, U.S. District Court Judge Claire V. Eagan found the law unconstitutional because it violated U.S. Supreme Court precedents requiring laws that restrict a minor's access to abortion to include a health exception and a procedure to obtain an abortion without the involvement of a parent. The judge also ruled that the law violated the due process rights of doctors by leaving out any specific guidelines on compliance.

"This law poses a serious threat to young women who face physical or emotional abuse by a parent or who have a medical emergency," said Bebe Anderson, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights and lead counsel on the case. "We are confident the Tenth Circuit will recognize the constitutional flaws in this law and affirm the lower court's ruling."

Under the statute, abortion providers would be financially liable for any post-abortion care for minors if they performed an abortion without "parental consent or knowledge." Abortion providers would be liable despite providing services that met or exceeded standards for medical care. In addition, the law does not limit the amount of damages for which a physician could be liable or the time in which the physician could be sued.

Most minors-especially younger ones-inform at least one parent or family member of a planned abortion. Many minors who do not involve a parent voluntarily consult another adult, such as a grandparent or older sibling. Minors who do not inform a parent are often motivated by fear of abuse, violence or pressure to continue the pregnancy to term. For battered teenagers and incest survivors in particular, mandatory parental involvement laws increase the risks of an already dangerous situation.

The plaintiff in Nova Health Systems, dba Reproductive Services v. Fogarty, et al., is represented by Bebe Anderson of the Center for Reproductive Rights and M.M. Hardwick of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

WHAT: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to hear oral arguments in Nova Health Systems, dba Reproductive Services v. Fogarty, et al.
WHEN: Monday, November 17, 2003, at 1 p.m.
WHERE: University of Colorado Law School, Fleming Law Building, Boulder, Colorado

Cases: