Bellotti v. Baird

LOCATION: Massachusetts General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 78-329
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 443 US 622 (1979)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1979
DECIDED: Jul 02, 1979

Brian A. Riley -
Garrick F. Cole - for appellants in No. 78-329, by Brian A
Joseph J. Balliro - for appellees in both cases
John H. Henn - for appellees in both cases

Facts of the case

A Massachusetts law required minors to gain parental consent before having an abortion. However, if either or both of the parents refused, a judge of the superior court could allow a minor to have the procedure "for good cause shown."


Did the law unconstitutionally restrict the right of a minor to have an abortion?

Media for Bellotti v. Baird

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1979 in Bellotti v. Baird

Warren E. Burger:

This case is submitted.

We'll hear arguments next in Bellotti against Baird and the consolidated case.

Mr. Cole, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Garrick F. Cole:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

My name is Garrick Cole.

I'm an Assistant Attorney General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I'm here before you today on behalf of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth and its district attorneys, the named defendants in this matter.

The Attorney General was sued because he is the chief law enforcement officer in charge with enforcement of the statute.

After summarizing briefly the prior proceedings in this case, reviewing the results of the abstention process and stating the significant facts, I propose to concentrate my argument this afternoon on two questions: whether the Court should consider the statute constitutional on its face and whether the District Court's remedy, a declaration of total unconstitutionality and an injunction against enforcement of any aspect of the statute in the first trimester, the second trimester, and the third trimester as to immature minors or as to mature minors, whether the Court should consider that remedy appropriate.

We are content to rely upon the arguments in our briefs concerning the other issues.

The District Court's handling of discovery and the matter of costs on appeal in this Court and our prior appeal.

As the Court may review from the briefs, this matter was commenced in 1974 in the District of Massachusetts before a three-judge District Court as a Civil Rights action seeking invalidation of a state statute.

The Court had this case before it in Jan-- excuse me, in July of-- for decision in July of 1976 which had vacated the District Court's decision on abstention grounds and send it back for further proceedings.

Those further proceedings occurred in 1977 and the case was retried in October of 1977.

In 1978-- in May of 1978, the District Court entered its decision, an order which we seek review here in this Court today, enjoining the statute, as I've said, the enforcement of the statute in its entirety and declaring the statute unconstitutional on its face.

Now, abstention-- the process of abstention which this Court directed the District Court pursue has had a substantial impact on the issues that are before us today.

As a result of abstention, the meaning of the statute is now clear and its purpose is certain.

Those purposes, as authoritatively construed by our Supreme Judicial Court, are to promote the best interests of pregnant adolescence and children by stimulating parental consultation accompanied by judicial supervision within the framework of the constitution.

As a result of abstention, gone is any suggestion of parental veto.

Gone, also, is any question concerning the promptness of judicial proceedings, and gone is any implication of improper or discriminatory intent.

The statute, we submit, that, as before the Court today, stands in the long tradition of state legislation enacted to protect and promote the best interests of its minor citizens.

So, as a re--

Harry A. Blackmun:

Is there any possible disagreement as to this note between the parties?

Garrick F. Cole:

I'm sorry, Your Honor, as to the meaning of the statute?

Harry A. Blackmun:

No, as to just what you said, that the best interest of the minors is the rule under the Massachusetts statute.

Garrick F. Cole:

Mr. Justice Blackmun, I believe not.

I believe that the Supreme Judicial Court's opinion on this -- in this regard is quite definite, that the judge's decision should --

Harry A. Blackmun:

That's the way I read it, but I wonder whether you knew as between counsel on the opposing side of the putty and whether there's any disagreement as to this.

Garrick F. Cole:

I think --

Harry A. Blackmun:

Maybe I'll ask them.