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High Court to Weigh Law on Parents’ Consent for Abortion

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The California Supreme Court agreed Thursday to consider the question of whether a minor must get permission from a parent or judge before having an abortion.

A majority of the high court decided to review the constitutionality of a law that was passed by the Legislature in 1987 but never enforced that requires women under age 18 to obtain parental or judicial consent for an abortion.

The case is the first abortion rights matter to come before the current court, which now includes two women among its members, Justices Joyce L. Kennard and Kathryn M. Werdegar.

Lower court rulings have blocked enforcement of the law and an appellate court found in June that the statute was unconstitutional because it violated state protection of the right to privacy.

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The high court’s decision to hear the case does not necessarily signal an intent to overturn the lower court but may simply mean that the justices believe they should have the final word on an issue of this importance, lawyers familiar with the case said. No date has been set for oral arguments.

Under California’s parental consent law, an unmarried woman under 18 living with her parents would be required to get permission from at least one parent before having an abortion. If she did not want to ask her parents, she could go to court and seek consent from a Superior Court judge in a private hearing.

After the law was passed, it was challenged in court by a coalition of health care providers and abortion rights advocates. The group estimates that nearly 30,000 women under 18 get abortions in California each year.

“Our core contention is that this law is bad for teen-agers,” said Linda Shostak, attorney for the coalition. “It’s bad for their health and it’s bad for their families as well.”

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Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren appealed to the high court, arguing that it was within the discretion of the Legislature and the governor to enact a parental consent law.

Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas and Justices Kennard, Armand Arabian and Marvin Baxter voted to consider the appellate court ruling--the minimum number of justices needed to grant a review.

If the court had refused to hear the case, the appellate court ruling striking down the law would have become the final word on the subject.

“We are pleased that the people of California will have this matter considered by the state’s highest court,” said David Puglia, a spokesman for Lungren.

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