RESPONDENT: Akron Center for Reproductive Health
LOCATION: Ohio House of Representatives
DOCKET NO.: 88-805
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
CITATION: 497 US 502 (1990)
ARGUED: Nov 29, 1989
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1990
Linda R. Sogg - on behalf of the Appellee
Rita S. Eppler - on behalf of the Appellant
Facts of the case
In 1985 the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 319, which requires a physician to notify the parents of an unmarried minor who is requesting an abortion, unless the situation falls under one of the exceptions. Exceptions include: the minor providing a letter of parental consent; the physician providing the parents with actual notification 24 hours before the procedure or notification by mail 48 hours before the procedure; and a judicial bypass procedure that allows a minor to obtain the approval of a specified relative upon filing an affidavit with a juvenile court or receive a notification waiver from a juvenile court if parental notification would cause the minor emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. Before the law was put into effect, an abortion clinic, one of its doctors, and a minor seeking an abortion sued in federal district court and claimed that the judicial bypass procedures the law required violated a minor’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The district court found in favor of the plaintiffs and issued a preliminary injunction preventing Ohio form enforcing the statute. Ohio appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed.
Do the judicial bypass requirements, the physician notification element, and the burden of proof mandated by the parental notification bill violate a minor’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights?
Media for Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 29, 1989 in Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health
William H. Rehnquist:
We'll hear argument first this morning in No. 88-805, Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health.
Ms. Eppler, you may proceed.
Rita S. Eppler:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
The case presented for review today concerns two central issues: First, does Ohio's parental notification statute as facially challenged ensure a minor's rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment; and second, does the Constitution require the state to provide a bypass procedure for a pregnant minor seeking to avoid parental notification.
The cardinal principle in our nation's laws is that states are entitled to enact laws designed to aid parents in discharging their responsibilities for the upbringing of their children.
This Court has recognized that a state has a significant interest in encouraging an unmarried pregnant minor to seek the help and advice of her parents in making the grave decision of whether or not to bear a child.
This right has specifically been extended to permit states to allow parental consent for a minor seeking to have an abortion performed, provided that an expedient and confidential alternative to consent is provided for a mature minor or a minor whose best interest would not be served.
If the state's interests are strong enough to justify parental consent, certainly they are strong enough to support also parental notification.
Parents can provide essential medical and other valuable information to physicians, including information about medical history, psychological history, data relevant to allergies, drug reactions, past diseases, family history.
This information may not always be available to the minor or, if available, may not be forthcoming from the minor if she believes the information could in any way jeopardize her ability to have the abortion performed.
In addition, informed parents are in a position to provide for post-operative type of complications to assure that there is proper treatment and care in the event that post-operative complications arise, be that in the... in the nature of physical complications or emotional.
Ohio's requirement of parental notification is clearly no more burdensome than a consent provision and balances the parents' responsibility for the upbringing of their children while preserving the minor's right to choose.
Ohio has adopted a parental notification statute that contains a judicial bypass procedure modeled on the guidelines provided by this Court in Bellotti II.
While the lower courts have acknowledged that Ohio has the right and the authority to legislate parental involvement, they nonetheless struck down Ohio's statute based on judicially manufactured flaws.
In a facial challenge to a legislative act, this Court has given clear guidance on the rules of statutory construction.
The challenger must establish that no set of facts or circumstances exist under which the act would be considered valid.
The fact that the statute might operate unconstitutionally under some conceivable set of facts or circumstances is insufficient to render a statute invalid in a facial challenge.
Statutes must be interpreted in a manner to avoid constitutional difficulties such that if one among alternative constructions would provide for an unconstitutional interpretation, then that particular interpretation should be rejected in favor of another.
The lower courts here have failed to adhere to these fundamental principles of statutory construction when analyzing Ohio's statute presented for review.
Specifically, the judicial bypass provisions provide a framework for an expedient and confidential bypass that has, in fact, an... an assurance of a timely resolution of the minor's petition based on a constructive authorization provision.
The pleading forms allow the minor to put into issue either maturity or best interest but do not compel the minor to plead both if she does not so choose.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
What about the clear and convincing evidence standard that's required?
Rita S. Eppler:
Your Honor, the clear and convincing standard of proof here does, in fact, provide for an ability... since the parents are not going to be represented at the hearing, the state has decided not to turn this into an adversarial type process, so the state is not represented, and there needs to be in this nonadversarial ex parte type of proceeding some way to assure a reliable result in the outcome.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
Well, what test do you apply?
The Mathews/Eldridge test?
Rita S. Eppler:
Yes, Your Honor.
When analyzing the three-part test laid out in Mathews v. Eldridge, specifically we first look to the private interest affected.
In this instance, it's the minor's right to have an abortion performed without notification to her parent and not simply the right to have an abortion performed, because she does retain her right to choose under a notification statute.
Secondly is the question of who bears the risk of an erroneous decision.
Again, in an ex parte, nonadversarial process, the minor here is the only party and, therefore, is the only party that can bear the risk.