BYU Law Review


Bruce C. Hafen


After the type for this article had been set, the US. Supreme Court decided two cases having potential implications for the constitutional rights of minors-Bellotti v. Baird, 44 US. L. W. 5221 (July 1, 1976) and Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 44 U.S.L. W. 5197 (July 1, 1976). In Belloti, a unanimous Court held that the lower federal court should have abstained from determining the constitutionality of a state statute requiring parental consent to an unmarried minor's abortion but providing for judicial order of consent "for good cause shown" after parental consent is refused. The Court found the statute susceptible of an interpretation by the appropriate state court that would not impose an absolute 'parental veto" power. Because such an interpretation would "avoid or substantially modify the federal constitutional challenge to the statute," abstention was held to be appropriate.

The Planned Parenthood case struck down a state statute imposing an "absolute" parental veto power over minors' abortion decisions; however, the majority opinion represented the views of only three of the nine Justices. There were four dissenters and the concurring opinion by Justice Stewart (joined by Justice Powell) implied that a statutory imposition of parental "consent or consultation" requirements short of an unconditional veto (such as the Belloti statute might be) could well be "constitutionally permissible."

The meaning of these decisions is unclear because of the uncertainty created by such a split among the members of the Court and the variety of potential approaches to parental consent requirements short of an absolute veto power. However, some of the language in Mr. Justice Blackmun's majority opinion in Planned Parenthood, while representing the views of but one-third of the Court, illustrates the serious lack of perspective on children's rights issues already reflected in a variety of lower court decisions and in other literature. It is that lack of perspective that gave rise to this article.


© 1976 J. Reuben Clark Law School

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