Florida Supreme Court Overturns Parental Notification Law

The Florida Supreme Court yesterday overturned a law requiring physicians to notify a teenager’s parents before performing an abortion, ruling that it violates young women’s right to privacy with no compelling state interest. Relying on a provision of the Florida Constitution that gives citizens the “right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion,” the ruling, “in no way interferes with a parent’s right to participate in the decision making process or a minor’s right to consult with her parents. Just the opposite. Under our decision, parent and minor are free to do as they wish in this regard, without governmental interference,” according to the New York Times.

“Today’s landmark decision by the Florida Supreme Court is a great victory not only for the young women of this state, but all of its citizens who care about their right to make personal decisions about their reproductive health and lives,” said Bebe Anderson, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), who served as lead counsel in the case. The law was passed in 1999 but never implemented because of legal challenges. Women’s health and rights advocates argued that the law not only violated young women’s right to choose abortion, but also had the potential to impose physical and emotional abuse on young women, force them to carry the pregnancy to term against their wishes, or delay them from obtaining an early abortion.

The Herald notes that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has often conflicted with the state’s highest court, but since this case was heard in March 2002, he has been able to appoint some justices that are more in line with his conservative views. Specifically, the Herald reports, Bush appointed Kenneth Bell, who has argued that courts are the “weakest branch of government,” and Raoul Cantero, who after the murder of Pensacola abortion provider Dr. David Gunn wrote a letter to the Herald saying that convicted murderer Michael Griffin was “confused about Christ’s doctrine” but “abortions kill children.”

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New York Times 7/11/03; Miami Herald 7/11/03; CRR 7/10/03

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