WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court (search) rejected an appeal Monday to reinstate a state law requiring girls under age 18 to get parental consent (search) for abortions except under the most dire of medical emergencies.
Without comment, justices let stand a lower court ruling that struck down the Idaho law because its provisions on emergency abortions were too strict.
The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 case, Roe v. Wade (search), ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion before the fetus is viable and to terminate her pregnancy if it poses a risk to her health.
At issue was whether the Idaho law was unduly burdensome on young mothers by limiting abortions without consent to "sudden and unexpected" instances of physical complications.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said yes, saying there was no reasonable explanation for the restriction. Other emergency medical procedures are allowed on minors without parental permission that do not fit the "sudden and unexpected" category, it said.
The court said the rest of the law could not be salvaged because the emergency provisions were too important.
The justices' move Monday sidesteps a highly charged issue amid continuing speculation about a looming vacancy on the high court. At least three justices have said they believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and liberal groups have vowed to fight any judicial nominee that opposes the landmark ruling.
The last major abortion decision by the Supreme Court came in 2000, when the court ruled 5-4 to strike down Nebraska's ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortion because it failed to provide an exception to protect the mother's health.
The Idaho law had been challenged by Planned Parenthood of Idaho and one of the four Idaho doctors who performs abortions.
Other states also provide for parental consent for abortions in many situations, but Idaho's is considered more stringent than most.
In 2001, there were 738 abortions performed in the state, a drop from 1980, when 2,553 were performed, according to state statistics.
The case is Wasden v. Planned Parenthood of Idaho, 04-703.