State Supreme Court judges have heard a challenge to state law that prohibits someone from helping a teen-age girl get around requirements that minors receive parental consent for an abortion. The legislature approved the law during a special session in 2005. It made an addition to the state parental notice law. It allowed for civil lawsuits to be filed against anyone who helps a minor circumvent state parental consent laws. Planned Parenthood filed suit, claiming that the law would infringe on free speech rights and places an undue burden on minors, primarily because they it requires that if the minor doesn’t have her parent’s permission to have an abortion, she must receive judicial permission in both Missouri and the state in which the abortion clinic is located.
State Supreme Court judges, though, seemed skeptical about the free speech claims, peppering Planned Parenthood attorney Eve Gartner with questions about the claim. Some judges even suggested that a ruling that the law cannot prohibit someone from talking with a teen about abortion would clear up that challenge. Gartner pressed the undue burden claim as well, stating that the law still places an undue burden on a teen-ager who could be traumatized by her pregnancy. Assistant Attorney General Michael Pritchett argued that the law doesn’t touch free speech issues and that if the legislature wanted to prohibit such discussions, it would have used different language in the statute. St. Louis Assistant Circuit Attorney Rebeca Novarro-McKelvey asserted that the law doesn’t touch free speech issues and stated that it doesn’t go beyond the state’s interest in seeing that its law is followed.
The State Supreme Court has taken the case under advisement and will rule later.