The state's law requiring parental notification when an underage girl seeks an abortion is too strict because it does not give girls an option of going to a judge instead, a federal judge ruled.
The decision Monday by U.S. District Judge Richard Battey of Rapid City guts a large part of the state's controversial 1993 abortion law. He also threw out sections dealing with criminal penalties and civil lawsuits, saying both would have a chilling effect on the availability of abortion services in the state.But the judge said it is legal for the state to require doctors to give women information on the medical risks at least 24 hours before an abortion.
Planned Parenthood and Dr. Buck Williams contested the abortion law last year in federal court. Williams, of Sioux Falls, is the only doctor in the state who performs abortions.
"The lawsuit was based on the burden of patients," Williams said Monday. "It's a very big victory for women in this state."
The state cannot enforce a portion of the law that requires at least one parent to be notified before a minor may get an abortion, Battey said.
No such condition can be ordered unless the law also allows judges to be approached by minors wishing to prove they are mature enough to make the decision themselves or that the decision to get an abortion is in the minor's best interest, he said.
Battey threw out a provision that would have allowed civil lawsuits against doctors who failed to comply with the abortion law. Parents could have collected $10,000 in punitive damages for violations and minors could have received $5,000; actual damages would have required triple payment.