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Thursday, May 3, 2007


The Missouri Supreme Court on May 1 unanimously upheld a 2005 state law that allows parents to sue those who “aid or assist” their underage daughters in obtaining an out-of-state abortion without their permission. In doing so, however, the court interpreted the law so narrowly as to limit much of its effect.

Missouri law has long required parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion. Neighboring Illinois does not. As a result, some Missouri girls seek abortions in Illinois clinics, a practice Missouri sought to curtail with its 2005 law.

In interpreting the law, the Supreme Court said the broad “aid or assist” language cannot be construed to allow lawsuits against people who offer a minor advice about obtaining an abortion. To hold otherwise, the court said, would violate First Amendment free speech rights. The court also said the limits of Missouri law end at its borders. As a result, workers and doctors at Illinois clinics cannot be held liable for actions that take place outside of Missouri. Both abortion rights supporters and opponents claimed victory with the ruling.

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