MT Senate Says Parents Should be Told of Abortion

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana Senate endorsed a measure Tuesday that would revive a requirement for parental notification when a woman under 18 plans to have an abortion, despite a 10-year-old court ruling that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Montana lawmakers passed a parental notification law in 1995, but a state District Court ruled in 1999 that it violates a minor’s right to privacy.

Senate Bill 374, introduced by Sen. Gary Perry, aims to change that law’s language to allow for a new constitutionality test.

The Republican from Manhattan said its absurd that parental consent is currently required for medicines, tattoos and body piercings, but not for abortions.

“If you believe this bill is unconstitutional, then why have you not declared the unconstitutionality of parental authority for all medical procedures,” Perry asked fellow lawmakers.

Senators endorsed the measure with a 29-21 vote. After one more Senate vote, it may move to the House for consideration. Two Democrats, Sens. Jim Keane and Jonathan Windy Boy, crossed party lines to support the measure.

The bill changes the language of what is known as the judicial bypass option. It would allow a judge to lift the parental notification requirement if it is found in the best interests of the young woman.

Opponents say most minors already notify their parents of abortion plans, and they worry compelling notification will limit women’s reproductive choices.

“This bill assumes that we have an Ozzie and Harriet sitting out there. We don’t in some homes, unfortunately,” said Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula.

A similar measure to reinstate the 1995 notification law failed during the last legislative session.

The original law was voided after the District Court found that judicial bypass took too long and led to more second-trimester abortions.

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