SACRAMENTO — Unwed minors who seek an abortion in California will first have to obtain their parent's consent, or a court order, under legislation signed Sunday by Gov. George Deukmejian.
But critics of the measure vowed to challenge the new law in court even before it takes effect on Jan. 1.
"It just makes sense to require parental approval of a decision that has the potential of dramatically affecting a minor, both physically and emotionally," Deukmejian said in a press release. "For those minors for which it is impractical to obtain parental consent, the measure does provide the option of seeking juvenile court approval in a confidential setting."
Proponents of the measure hailed the bill as "historic" legislation.
"This is another great day for families in California," said Assemblyman Phillip Wyman (R-Tehachapi), author of the parental consent provisions, which were amended into a bill by Assemblyman Robert Frazee (R-Carlsbad). "For the first time, state policy will be consistent with the views of 80% of Californians, who believe that parents have the right to be involved in their childrens' decisions (about) whether or not to have an abortion."
But Shireen Miles, California director of the National Organization for Women, predicted that some girls would resort to illegal abortions rather than obtain permission from their parents or go to court.
'Ignore Health Considerations'
"I'm sorry that the governor as well as the majority of California legislators chose to ignore the health considerations of teen-age girls," Miles said.
Margaret Crosby, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco, said the ACLU intends to assist in a court challenge to the law before it takes effect.
Crosby said the law could be challenged either in federal or state court. A state court challenge likely would assert that the law violates the right to privacy in the California Constitution. A federal court lawsuit would focus on what the ACLU and others consider defects in the bill.
"The federal courts have allowed these kinds of statutes only where the judicial alternative to involving parents is a practical, meaningful, established avenue of relief," Crosby said. "This bill does not guarantee the kind of speed and confidentiality necessary to make the judicial bypass constitutional."
No Guidelines for Appeal
Although the legislation assures a pregnant girl a hearing within three days and a decision within one day after the matter is heard by a juvenile court judge, Crosby noted that the bill provides no guidelines for the appeals process to be used if a judge denies a girl permission for an abortion. And although girls may file confidential petitions with the court, opponents have argued that they will be recognized, particularly in small towns, when they appear at the hearing.
But proponents said they are confident that the law will be upheld.
"I believe our bill, with its expedited, confidential judicial bypass procedure for those minors who truly cannot go to their parents is fair and reasonable and does not contain any of the problem areas which have led to the overturning of some parental consent laws in other states," Wyman said.
The legislation makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, for any person to knowingly perform an abortion on an unmarried girl under age 18 without proper consent. Minors who have already been granted independence from their parents by a court are not affected by the bill.