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AGLO 1976 No. 46 - July 27, 1976
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

ABORTIONS ‑- PARENTAL OR SPOUSAL CONSENT ‑- IMPACT OF RECENT SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

In view of decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court in Parenthood of Central Missouri, et al. v. Danforth, 44 L.W. 5197 andBellotti, et al. v. Baird, et al., 44 L.W. 5221 (1976), neither the parental or spousal consent requirements of RCW 9.02.070, regulating abortions, are currently constitutionally unenforceable.

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                                                                    July 27, 1976

Honorable William S. Day
State Senator, Fourth District
E. 2721 Sprague Avenue
Spokane, Washington 99202                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1976 No. 46

Dear Senator Day:

            This is written in response to your recent letter asking to be advised regarding the impact of the United State Supreme Court's two most recent decisions relating to state abortion statutes upon the enforceability of RCW 9.02.070.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The cases to which you have referred are Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri, et al. v. Danforth, 44 L.W. 5197 andBellotti, et al. v. Baird, et al., 44 L.W. 5221, both decided on July 1, 1976.  Basically, the Supreme Court in these two cases ruled that both the concept of a statutory parental consent requirement (in the case of an unmarried minor) and that of a spousal consent requirement (in the case of a married woman) are unconstitutional restrictions upon the right of a woman to obtain an abortion.  It is to be noted, however, that the parental consent requirement of our own state statute, RCW 9.02.070,1/ had already been declared to be unconstitutional by our own state supreme court more than a year ago in State v. Koome, 84 Wn.2d 901, 530 P.2d 260 (1975).  See, AGLO 1975 No. 71 [[to Alan Bluechel, State Senator on August 13, 1975 an Informal Opinion, AIR-75571]], copy enclosed.  Thus, this aspect of the United States Supreme Court's most recent rulings merely confirms the position taken by our own state court earlier.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            As for the spousal consent requirement of our law, the effect of the Supreme Court's invalidation of such a requirement in the above cases must now be viewed by us as rendering that portion of RCW 9.02.070 constitutionally unenforceable as well with respect to abortions performed in the state of Washington.  Accord, the reasoning and analysis appearing in AGO 1973 No. 7 [[to Alan Bluechel, State Representative on February 14, 1973]], a copy of which is also enclosed for your immediate reference.  In short, therefore, our direct answer to your question must be that at the present time, neither the parental consent requirement nor the spousal consent requirement of our statute may, constitutionally, be enforced so as to prevent a woman from obtaining an abortion without the consent of her parent or guardian (if an unmarried minor) or that of her husband (if married).

            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/"A pregnancy of a woman not quick with child and not more than four lunar months after conception may be lawfully terminated under RCW 9.02.060 through 9.02.090 only:  ( a) with her prior consent and, if married and residing with her husband or unmarried and under the age of eighteen years, with the prior consent of her husband or legal guardian, respectively, (b) if the woman has resided in this state for at least ninety days prior to the date of termination, and (c) in a hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals or at a medical facility approved for that purpose by the state board of health, which facility meets standards prescribed by regulations to be issued by the state board of health for the safe and adequate care and treatment of patients:  Provided, That if a physician determines that termination is immediately necessary to meet the medical emergency the pregnancy may be terminated elsewhere.  Any physician who violates this section or any regulation of the state board of health issued under authority of this section shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor."

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