Mo. Supreme Court upholds parental lawsuits for abortions

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Missouri Supreme Court upheld a law Tuesday letting parents sue people who help their teenage daughters get abortions without their consent.

The court's unanimous decision rejected claims by Planned Parenthood that the 2005 law could infringe on their free speech rights to provide information and counseling about abortions. It also turned down various other constitutional challenges by the organization.

The law states that "no person shall intentionally cause, aid, or assist a minor to obtain an abortion without the consent" of a parent or court order. Parents and guardians can sue those who violate the law, seeking compensation for emotional injury and punitive damages.

A Jackson County judge had expressed "substantial trepidation" while upholding the law in 2005, and had issued an injunction against enforcing it pending an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.

When the state's highest court heard arguments last November, Chief Justice Michael Wolff had said the law didn't appear to prohibit a mere discussion about abortion services.

Planned Parenthood affiliates had argued that the words "aid" and "assist" could be applied broadly to prohibit abortion counseling or the sharing of information.

But the Supreme Court applied a more narrow interpretation, saying those specific things weren't prohibited and the law did not violate the First Amendment right to free speech.

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