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Court Sidetracks Georgia Abortion Law

September 09, 1987|Associated Press

ATLANTA — A federal judge Tuesday barred Georgia from enforcing a new law requiring minors to notify their parents before having an abortion, ruling that two key provisions are unconstitutional.

It was the second such ruling in a week in the federal courts. Last week, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a 1981 Minnesota law requiring minors to notify both parents or receive a court's permission before getting abortions.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hall stayed further proceedings in the Georgia case until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a similar Illinois law.

The Georgia law, passed by the 1987 Legislature, would have required a parent or other adult to accompany a girl 17 or younger to an abortion clinic to verify that her parents had been informed. Clinics performing abortions without proof of parental notification would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Scheduled for July

The law was to take effect July 1, but Hall issued a temporary restraining order blocking its implementation after Planned Parenthood groups in Atlanta and Augusta filed a suit challenging it.

At a hearing before Hall in July, opponents argued that the law would cause delays, increasing the health risk and the cost of an abortion. Proponents of the law argued that it would bring families closer together at a critical time in a young woman's life.

In his ruling Tuesday, Hall said the requirement that an adult accompany a girl to a clinic is unconstitutional because it "unduly burdens the minor's rights."

"No matter how thoroughly discussed and well considered the decision to terminate a pregnancy may be, a family acting on good-faith compliance with the statute may not be able to implement that decision without unnecessary, costly and medically dangerous delay and expense," he said.

Hall said legislators can solve that problem by amending the law to allow verification by telephone or mail, as allowed in other states.

He also found an unconstitutional violation of a juvenile's right to anonymity. The law allows a judge to approve a minor's abortion as an alternative to parental notification in some cases, but Hall noted that Georgia Supreme Court rules do not provide for the sealing of juvenile court documents.

Georgia Atty. Gen. Michael Bowers said state officials had not decided whether to appeal.

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