Planned Parenthood of Montana filed a lawsuit Thursday against two measures restricting the abortion rights of minors, one just passed by the 2013 Legislature and the other passed by Montana voters in 2012.
House Bill 391 requires parental consent before a minor can have an abortion. LR120, passed by more than 70 percent of Montana voters in November, 2012, was a similar measure but only required parental notification before a minor's abortion. That latter measure was superseded by House Bill 391, although it would become active again if HB391 was thrown out. So Planned Parenthood sued the state for both.
"Our (state) constitution is pretty clear on these issues," said Planned Parenthood of Montana Communications Director Lindsay Love. She argues the state grants minors the right to consent for their own reproductive healthcare.
Opponents of HB391 say the vast majority pregnant minors do consult their parents before an abortion and the small percentage who do not might be doing so out of fear of abuse.
Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, was one of the co-sponsors of HB391. She said she doesn't believe the Legislature should not be upholding broad laws which address a small minority of cases.
"Those are tough, sad situations," Ballance said. "That's where other social support groups come in, whether they are clergy people, whether they are state social workers, whoever they happen to be. We need to make available counseling services for kids like that."
Ballance is personally against abortion. She said allowing minors to receive an abortion without consent undermines the authority granted to parents over their children.
"There are things that a parent will know about that child that a child may not disclose to a doctor, may choose not to or may not even know in some cases," she said, adding a minor may not fully understand the emotional trauma that can accompany an abortion. Ballance believes the majority of Montanans support the tenants of the new consent law. In fact, lawmakers also passed a referendum with similar language that would have gone before voters in 2014, but it was voided when Gov. Steve Bullock let HB391 pass into law without his signature. Lindsay Love with Planned Parenthood sees it differently than Ballance. "We don't put fundamental rights up for popular vote. That's why our constitution exists and ultimately that's why we have taken this course," she said. Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuits in Montana District Court in Helena. It is unclear when the court will take any action.