ABORTION Court upholds parental consent
The legislation may be enforced for the first time since its 1998 passage.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio's law requiring girls under age 18 to get a parent's consent for an abortion is constitutional and may be enforced seven years after it passed, a federal court ruled Thursday.
The law signed by then-Gov. George Voinovich also requires a woman seeking an abortion to meet in person with a doctor at least 24 hours before the operation to get a description of the procedure, its risks and alternatives.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of Cincinnati Women's Services a month before the 1998 law was to take effect. The law has been on hold since then pending resolution of the case, which was argued this year in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.
"Plaintiffs' evidence does not demonstrate that H.B. 421 imposes undue burdens on the abortion right even when viewed in a highly deferential manner," said the opinion by Judge Sandra Beckwith, even though she said it might prevent some women or girls from getting abortions.
But the ruling also pleads for a clearer definition of "undue burden" from the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The need for more clarity is acute because ... legislatures will continue to legislate in this area; pro-choice advocates will continue to challenge such legislation, and the federal courts will continue to be caught in the middle," Beckwith wrote.
The ACLU has not yet decided if it will appeal, attorney Carrie Davis said. The attorney who argued the case is out of state and not reachable by cell phone, she said. A message seeking comment was left with Debi Jackson, director of the women's clinic.
The 1998 law now is in effect unless a higher court orders it to be suspended during an appeal, said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro.
Previous Ohio law allowed women to talk to a doctor by telephone or view a videotape to satisfy the requirement for informed consent. Also, minors had to notify a parent but not obtain consent.
Minors also could try in several different courts to seek a judge's permission to lift the notification requirement; under the new law, the girl can try to lift the consent requirement only once per pregnancy.
Ohio is among 25 states that require parental consent for a minor seeking abortion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Another 23 require notification.
State Sen. Jim Jordan, who has written or supported several bills limiting abortion in both the House and Senate, said lawmakers were confident the law would be upheld.
"We were very careful to follow the statute that Missouri had adopted that had survived court challenges," the Urbana Republican said.