Bellotti v. Baird (Ii)

443 U.S. 622 (1979)


In 1974, Massachusetts passed an act pertaining to abortions performed within the state. A class action was taken shortly before the act was to take effect in order to enjoin as unconstitutional the provisions of the act that required a mother under 18 years of age and not married to get the consent of both her parents. If one or both of the parents refused consent, then consent could be obtained through a judge. Physicians performing abortions without the required consent were guilty of criminal conduct. The district court held the statute unconstitutional. This was appealed and vacated by the Supreme Court on the ground that the district court should have abstained and certified to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. On remand, the district court certified nine questions to the Supreme Judicial Court. After getting the responses from the Massachusetts Court, the district court held the statute unconstitutional. The District Court held the statute defective in permitting a judge to veto the abortion decision of a minor found to be capable of giving informed consent. The court reasoned that, upon a finding of maturity and informed consent, the State no longer was entitled to impose legal restrictions upon this decision. The statute suffered from what it termed 'formal overbreadth,' because the statute failed explicitly to inform parents that they must consider only the minor's best interests in deciding whether to grant consent. The court believed that parents naturally would infer from the statute that they were entitled to withhold consent for other, impermissible reasons. This was thought to create a 'chilling effect' by enhancing the possibility that parental consent would be denied wrongfully and that the minor would have to proceed in court. The Supreme Court heard the case again.