A U.S appeals court last week overturned an Indiana parental notification law in a much-watched abortion case that could land in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law in question requires the parents of a teen girl to be notified if she is seeking a judicial bypass for an abortion. The law includes an exemption for parental notification if the judge finds that such a notification is not in the girl’s best interests.
The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on March 12 upheld a district court ruling that declared the law unconstitutional, agreeing with the lower court’s decision that the notification “requirement was likely to impose an undue burden on the right to obtain an abortion for a significant fraction of minors for whom the requirement would be relevant.” Further, the new law has no “appreciable benefit,” the appeals court said.
The decision was 2-1.
The case has a complicated history and could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was passed in 2017 but overturned by the Seventh Circuit in 2019. In 2020, the Supreme Court vacated the Seventh Circuit’s decision and ordered it to reconsider the ruling in light of another abortion rights Supreme Court case, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. Although pro-lifers lost the June Medical case, Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in the majority was seen as weakening pro-choice legal arguments and potentially laying the groundwork for future pro-life victories.
The Seventh Circuit, in its newest opinion, was split on whether Roberts’ decision should impact their decision.
“Constitutional standards for state regulations affecting a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy are not stable, but they have not been changed, at least not yet, in a way that would change the outcome here,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for the majority. He was joined by Judge Ilana Rovner. They were nominated by Presidents Obama and George H.W. Bush, respectively.
Judge Michael Kanne, who was nominated by President Reagan, dissented.
“The Supreme Court has confirmed that parental-notification requirements are constitutional time and again. And Planned Parenthood has failed to show that requiring mature minors to notify their parents that they intend to have an abortion (where a judge has found that avoiding notification is not in their best interests) constitutes an undue burden under Casey,” Kanne wrote, referencing a 1992 Supreme Court ruling. “This court should reverse the district court’s injunction and let Indiana exercise its legislative judgment that a parental notification law best serves the interests of its citizens.”
National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis surmised that the “split between the judges on the Seventh Circuit” makes it “more likely that the issue will head back to the Supreme Court,” especially “because the dissenting judge’s opinion revealed that lower-court judges disagree on how the rationale of June Medical should influence rulings on other abortion regulations.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.