ABORTION: Lungren’s Last Order Could Reopen Parental Consent Issue
"In one of his final acts of office," departing California Attorney General Dan Lungren (R) "gave school districts around the state carte blanche to bar students from receiving pregnancy or abortion counseling without the consent of their parents," which pro-choice groups say may reopen the debate on parental consent for abortion in the state. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1997's American Academy of Pediatrics v. Lungren that the state could not compel minors to obtain parental consent for abortions. State Sen. Ray Haynes (R) asked Deputy Attorney General Clayton Roche to prepare a brief squaring Lungren's action with the decision in American Academy. Roche wrote that Lungren's order "contrasts significantly with the issue before the court in American Academy. ... [A]ny hypothetical challenge to a school district rule requiring parental consent for pregnancy-related counseling and referral services at a school-run health clinic fails to rise to the level of a state law that precludes a minor from obtaining a medically safe abortion without parental consent."
The First Step?
The San Diego Daily Transcript reports that some argue "Roche's opinion could be the first crack in the legal edifice constructed by [Chief Justice Ronald] George's opinion in American Academy." Mary Ellen Hamilton of Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside counties said, "We're just a little bit concerned that they're taking an opportunity here to put an opinion forth that has no force in the law. We feel that school districts should be required to meet the test set out by the state Supreme Court." But Haynes' staff said the decision establishes no test for this type of case. Daryl Thomas, Haynes' legislative assistant, said, "The good thing about the opinion is that it finds that the holding in American Pediatrics does not override parental rights. School districts cannot go behind the backs of parents and offer services that parents have expressly stated they do not want offered to their children." Thomas also said the new issue may assist state Sen. Tim Leslie's (R) effort to bypass American Academy via a ballot initiative in 2000. However, Norma Trost, spokesperson for the San Diego Unified School District, said the debate may have little practical significance. "I don't think the parental-consent issue has been a big one here because we have never provided abortion counseling or pregnancy-prevention counseling" (DiEdoardo, San Diego Daily Transcript, 1/5). Click parental consent for previous coverage of the issue.