On Friday in Philadelphia, the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that a city health clinic did not violate the rights of a 16-year-old girl by giving her the emergency contraception she requested, or the rights of her parents by not notifying them.
The girl, Melissa Anspach, went to the clinic in January 2004 fearing that she was pregnant and requested emergency contraception. She spoke briefly with a social worker and was then given two doses, one to take immediately and one to take twelve hours later. After taking the second dose, Anspach experienced abdominal pains and vomiting, leading her parent to discover she had taken EC. Anspach was taken to a hospital by her parents where she was treated and released.
Melissa’s parents raised religious objections to the clinic’s actions and filed suit, claiming that the city of Philadelphia had violated their constitutional rights of parental guidance by not notifying them of their daughter’s decision. Melissa herself also filed suit, claiming her rights of religious freedom and bodily integrity had been violated. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed all constitutional claims, upholding a previous decision by a federal district court. Both courts ruled that the Anspachs had no constitutional right to be notified of their daughter’s contraception choice, and that Melissa could have told them voluntarily.
“The Constitution does not impose an affirmative obligation on [the] defendants to ensure that children abide by their parents’ wishes, values or religious beliefs,” states the ruling, adding that her parents “failed to plead facts that would establish that the Center inserted itself into Melissa’s decision by preventing Melissa from consulting her parents.”