Measure Mandates Parental OK for Teen Abortions

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — The House on Tuesday endorsed a plan to require parental consent for underage abortions, rather than just the parental notification adopted by voters just last year.

House Bill 391 would require written parental consent before anyone under the age of 18 could get an abortion unless they were an emancipated minor or had a judicial waiver. It also would require both parent and teen to sign a notification form about the dangers of the procedure written by the abortion foes.

The measure was endorsed 59-41 mostly along partisan lines in the Republican-controlled chamber. It faces a final vote Wednesday in that chamber before going to the Senate.

Supporters said the proposal is a sequel to the ballot initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved in November. The initiative requires parental notification before a girl under the age of 16 can get an abortion.

Opponents, led by Democrats, argued most teens already include parents in such decisions. Those who don’t often come from bad homes, or suffered from rape or incest, they said.

“We don’t live in an ideal world,” said Rep. Virginia Court, D-Billings. “Let us choose to keep the doors open for these young women.”

The supporters argue the measure goes too far by requiring parental permission, instead of just the notification required in the ballot initiative, and could be considered an invasion of constitutional privacy rights.

Supporters of the measure have argued that strong public support for the notion of parental notification warrants a challenge to the past Montana Supreme Court decisions on related matters.

“Let’s just listen to the parents and pass this bill,” said Rep. Pat Ingraham, R-Thompson Falls.

Rep. David Halvorson stirred emotion after he began to describe the “absolute evil” of abortion. He and other opponents argued the measure is about child safety and making sure parents are involved in the decision.

The abortion foes, buoyed by the success of last year’s ballot measure, are putting forward measures opposed by abortion rights advocates.

One would create a new crime for causing the death of an unborn child, while others regulate local school sex-education policies and ban such groups as Planned Parenthood from being involved. As a backup plan, each bill has an identical referendum that could be put straight to voters should any of the measures be vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock — who has been cool toward the ideas.

On Tuesday, Bullock said the state should be “cautious” in creating new restrictions and rules in such areas.

GOP-led budget committees have stripped federal family planning funding, part of which goes to Planned Parenthood. The money pays for things like birth control, breast exams and screening for cervical cancer, and federal law prevents use of that money on abortions.

Abortion rights advocates took a dim view of the slate of bills moving through the Legislature.

“This may seem like a quieter war on women, but the attacks are happening nonetheless, and our Legislature is further marginalizing women and families who need health care and deserve privacy,” said Lindsey Love, communications manager for Planned Parenthood of Montana.

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