Hodgson v. Minnesota

LOCATION: Residence of Cruzan

DOCKET NO.: 88-1125
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 497 US 417 (1990)
ARGUED: Nov 29, 1989
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1990

Janet Benshoof - Argued the cause for Hodgson
John R. Tunheim - Chief Deputy Attorney General of Minnesota argued the cause for Minnesota

Facts of the case

Under Section 2 of a Minnesota statute regulating a minor's access to abortion, women under 18 were denied access to the procedure until 48 hours after both their parents had been notified. Exceptions were made in the cases of medical emergencies and women who were victims of parental abuse. Section 6 of the law allowed the courts to judicially bypass Section 2 if the young woman could maturely demonstrate that notification would be unwise.


Did the Minnesota abortion notification statute unconstitutionally restrict a minor's access to having an abortion?

Media for Hodgson v. Minnesota

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 29, 1989 in Hodgson v. Minnesota

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 88-1125, Jane Hodgson v. Minnesota; No. 88-1309, Minnesota v. Jane Hodgson.

Ms. Benshoof, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Janet Benshoof:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case presents the constitutionality of a 1981 criminal Minnesota statute requiring both biological parents to be notified prior to a minor's abortion.

The issue here is not one of parental involvement.

The heart of our case is the two-parent requirement which not only is out of step with the reality of family life but which tramples on the integrity of many families.

Because the statutory scheme was written in the alternative, there are two statutory schemes before the Court today.

Subdivision 2, where we are the appellees, requires that both biological parents be notified 48 hours prior to any teenager's abortion.

This notification requirement is imposed across-the-board regardless of whether the minor lives in a no-parent, one-parent or two-parent household, regardless of whether she is mature, or whether it would be in her best interest to have a private abortion, regardless of whether she has ever met the absent parent.

Under subdivision 2, no bypass option is possible with this notice even when the minor, her natural parent and her stepparent together agree that abortion is the best choice and to notice to the absent family is likely to be destructive to the family.

Subdivision 6, where we're the appellant, was in effect for five years.

It imposes the same notice and waiting period requirement but contains a judicial bypass.

After five weeks of trial and hearing the testimony of some 57 witnesses, the trial court federal court judge in Minnesota made comprehensive findings of fact as to the impact and the operation of this law on minors, on medical practice, on their privacy rights and on their families.

50 percent of minors in Minnesota who are seeking abortions do not live with both biological parents.

William H. Rehnquist:

Was this all testified to at that trial, Ms. Benshoof?

Janet Benshoof:

Yes, it was.

William H. Rehnquist:

It wasn't just studies or... but witnesses got on the stand and said that?

Janet Benshoof:


Far from helping minors or families, this statute tries to force a parental role where one may never have existed.

It undermined families that do exist and drove minors from timely, critical medical care.

I would first like to address subdivision 2, where we are the appellees.

The state argues that biological parents have a right to know, a right which they contend is older in history than any privacy or bodily integrity rights of minors.

They further argue that having a judicial bypass defeats these constitutional rights of parents.

However, in Ashcroft, Akron and Bellotti, this Court clearly held that an effective bypass mechanism had to be held for any parental involvement requirement in order to ensure that mature minors and best interest minors were not forced to forego those privacy rights recognized in Danforth.

This Court has consistently recognized both the unique and the non-postponable nature of the abortion decision, and the fact that imposition of unwanted motherhood on a teenager is particularly devastating to her future.

This state's right-to-know theory ignores Danforth in which this Court said that any independent right of the parent that may exist is no more weighty than a minor's privacy right; and, in fact, even the dissent in Danforth in this Court looked at the minor's welfare, not at some independent, completely right of the parent absent any consideration of the welfare of the minor.

Apart from this right-to-know theory in this case, this Court has never supported the idea of giving fundamental due process rights to any sort of parent who's never lived with the child, acknowledged the child, supported the child, or whose abusive actions to the other parent or the child are destructive.

This Court has been repeatedly skeptical of the claims of absentee fathers.

In Lehr, for example, an unmarried father with no ongoing relationship with the child, was not even entitled to notice of a pending adoption.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, Ms. Benshoof, weren't... those were claims where the absent father asserted a constitutional claim--