Brief Fact Summary. A Massachusetts law required an unmarried minor woman to get consent from both her parents before procuring an abortion. If unable to do so, a superior court judge may issue a consent order.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A minor’s right to an abortion may be conditioned on parental consent, as long as there is an alternative procedure provided by the State.
Although children generally are protected by the same constitutional guarantees against governmental deprivations as are adults, the State is entitled to adjust its legal system to account for children's vulnerability and their other needs.View Full Point of Law
Issue. May a State condition a minor woman’s right to an abortion on parental consent?
Held. Yes. Court of Appeals ruling affirmed.
Justice Lewis Powell (J. Powell) argued that the rights of a woman to have an abortion must be balanced with the ability of parents to make decisions for their minor offspring.
The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) had previously held that an absolute parental veto over a minor’s decision to terminate her pregnancy was unconstitutional. In the statute at bar, the State provides a “safety valve” of allowing a judicial determination instead of parental consent. Because the statute balances parental interest in raising their children with the unique situation of a pregnant minor seeking an abortion, the statute is constitutional.
Concurrence. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) concurs with the majority opinion, but writes separately to voice concern that there are not concrete guidelines for the judges standing over a request for consent for an abortion.
Discussion. The main point of Bellotti is the balancing of the interests of the minor woman in terminating the pregnancy and the parents in having the ability to raise their offspring.