Legal expert: Missouri consent abortion law will ultimately prevail
By Allen Palmeri
December 2, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – Starting Jan. 27 in Jefferson City, Planned Parenthood attorneys will have Missouri’s informed consent abortion law tied up in a federal courtroom, which is precisely where the abortionists want it. But once the months of abortionist-induced judicial semantics subside, the truth of a time-tested Pennsylvania law will be impossible to ignore, according to a New Orleans attorney and a national expert on such cases.
Missouri lawmakers passed the informed consent abortion measure requiring women seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours and consult with their physician before terminating their pregnancy. Democratic Gov. Bob Holden vetoed the measure on July 9. It was overridden by both chambers of the Missouri legislature on Sept. 11. The override prompted pro-abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood to go to court to block implementation of the law. Federal District Court Judge Scott O. Wright of Kansas City issued a temporary restraining order Oct. 10, preventing the law from going into effect the next day.
Dorinda Bordlee with the Chicago-based public interest law firm Americans United for Life said Planned Parenthood’s accusation of “unconstitutionally vague and broad language" is a common strategy.
However, what Planned Parenthood won’t tell you about its lawsuit that resulted in the temporary restraining order issued by Wright is that the U.S. Supreme Court has already spoken.
“(Planned Parenthood v.) Casey is the controlling case," Bordlee said.
In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Casey — a law similar to Missouri’s — in Pennsylvania and refused to review a lower court ruling which also found another such law in Mississippi constitutional.
That has cleared the way for 19 more states – including Missouri – to pass informed consent laws with 18-hour or 24-hour reflection periods. Informed consent laws are constitutional as an expression of the state’s interest in the health and safety of women, Bordlee said.
The Missouri law is just like laws in Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Indiana , Bordlee said, not to mention those in such states as Ohio, Kentucky and Minnesota. Missouri’s law was written with these in mind. None of the language in it runs contrary to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, she said.
“This is a reasonable law that has the best interests of women and children in mind," Bordlee said. “The court should allow the will of the people to prevail."
Up next in the Missouri case, she said, is a round of legal maneuvers that could last as long as two years, but ultimately Planned Parenthood’s efforts will fizzle in the face of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
“They commonly play these semantic games," Bordlee said.
There is nothing vague in Casey, she said, which deemed that a reflection period in women’s right-to-know laws is both reasonable and constitutional. The Supreme Court said, “The idea that important decisions will be more informed and deliberate if they follow some period of reflection does not strike us as unreasonable, particularly where the statute directs that important information become part of the background of the decision."
A reasonable scenario for Missouri ’s law, Bordlee said, is what happened to Indiana’s law. Using the vague-language legal strategy, pro-abortion advocates opposing the Indiana law took their case in February to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected their appeal. In analyzing the case, which resulted in Indiana’s law going into effect, the Associated Press reported that “the high court has allowed states to place a variety of restrictions on abortion, including waiting periods and requirements for informed consent."
A January Gallup Poll showed that 88 percent of Americans favor a law requiring doctors to inform patients about alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure. And 78 percent favor a law requiring women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours before terminating their pregnancy.
The Missouri case demonstrates how pro-abortion advocates typically operate when they are left with but one option: stalling. A pro-abortion judge is sought, and their legal case is filed in that judge’s court. Wright is that judge in Missouri, having already launched the delay process in a partial-birth abortion case in 1999 that has yet to become law.
Wright, 80, received his law degree from the University of Missouri. He practiced law in Columbia from 1958-1979. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter to his present position, he took on senior status in 1991. Judge Wright is based out of Kansas City; he will be traveling to the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City to hear the case.
Wright has a history of siding with the abortionists in previous cases involving bans on the use of public funds, employees or buildings for abortions and a prohibition on insurance policies from covering abortion services without extra co-payments, the Springfield News-Leader reported. All of these rulings have eventually been reversed, the News-Leader reported.
If Wright rules true to form, he will make the temporary injunction permanent, efficiently setting in motion the Planned Parenthood delay. Only then may the legal efforts of the Attorney General’s office, which is charged with defending Missouri’s law, come to the fore.
It would be wise, Bordlee said, to get the case out of the hands of Wright as soon as possible and into the hands of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The goal would be a reasonable ruling more in line with Planned Parenthood v. Casey, she said.
Three other states – Delaware, Florida and Massachusetts – are in separate litigation along with Missouri over informed consent laws waiting to be enacted.
Legislation related to informed consent for abortion is on the rise. Missouri is one of seven states to pass such legislation this year. The others are Arkansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Washington.