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Missouri Supreme Court Rules on Teen Health Endangerment Laws
Jefferson City, MO — While upholding the framework of the Teen Health Endangerment law, the Missouri Supreme Court today dramatically limited its reach, ruling that medical professionals, such as Planned Parenthood and clergy, may provide minors with full information about their reproductive health options.
The law, which was passed in a September 2005 Extraordinary Session of the Missouri legislature called by Governor Blunt, creates civil liability for trusted adults — including clergy, family members, teachers or health care providers — who “cause, aid or assist” a young woman who cannot involve a parent in her decision to have an abortion outside of Missouri. Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (PPSLR), Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPKM), and the Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (MO-RCRC) argued before the Missouri Supreme Court against the Teen Health Endangerment law in November 2006.
The Court had to narrow the statute’s scope in order to uphold the law, and in its ruling indicated that the “phrase ‘aid or assist’ … cannot be constitutionally construed to include protected activities such as providing information or counseling.”
“As a trusted provider of information, we’re pleased that the State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that we can continue to provide accurate information and counseling to young women facing crisis pregnancies,” said Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of PPKM.
“The core issue of this case was our ability to provide information and counseling, and we’re pleased that the Court, in a unanimous decision, guaranteed our ability to do so and also makes clear to the Missouri Legislature that any future attempts to restrict such information and counseling would be found unconstitutional,” added Paula Gianino, president and CEO of PPSLR.
“We’re relieved to have resolution on this matter. The Court’s ruling clearly upheld the protections of the First Amendment and will allow clergy to counsel young women according to the teachings of their religious faith,” added Reverend Rebecca Turner, executive director of Missouri RCRC. MO-RCRC is a statewide coalition of 16 religious and ethical denominations and organizations that believe that the decision to have an abortion is a private religious and ethical matter that should not be determined by law.