H. L. v. Matheson
450 U.S. 398 (1981)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

H. L. v. Matheson, 450 U.S. 398 (1981)

H. L. v. Matheson, 450 U.S. 398

No. 79-5903

Argued October 6, 1980

Decided March 23, 1981

450 U.S. 398

Syllabus

A Utah statute requires a physician to "[n]otify, if possible," the parents or guardian of a minor upon whom an abortion is to be performed. Appellant, while an unmarried minor living with and dependent on her parents, became pregnant. A physician advised her that an abortion would be in her best medical interest but, because of the statute, refused to perform the abortion without first notifying her parents. Believing that she should proceed with the abortion without notifying her parents, appellant instituted a suit in state court seeking a declaration that the statute is unconstitutional and an injunction against its enforcement. She sought to represent a class consisting of unmarried minors "who are suffering unwanted pregnancies and desire to terminate the pregnancies but may not do so" because of their physicians' insistence on complying with the statute. The trial court upheld the statute as not unconstitutionally restricting a minor's right of privacy to obtain an abortion or to enter into a doctor-patient relationship. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed.

Held:

1. Since appellant did not allege or offer evidence that either she or any member of her class is mature or emancipated, she lacks standing to challenge the Utah statute as being unconstitutional on its face on the ground of overbreadth in that it could be construed to apply to all unmarried minor girls, including those who are mature and emancipated. Harris v. McRae,448 U. S. 297. Moreover, the State is bound by a ruling in another case that the statute does not apply to emancipated minors, and the Utah Supreme Court has had no occasion to consider the statute's application to mature minors. Pp. 450 U. S. 405-407.

2. As applied to an unemancipated minor girl living with and dependent upon her parents, and making no claim or showing as to maturity or as to her relations with her parents, the Utah statute serves important state interests, is narrowly drawn to protect only those interests, and does not violate any guarantees of the Constitution. Pp. 450 U. S. 407-413.

(a) Although a state may not constitutionally legislate a blanket, unreviewable power of parents to veto their daughter's abortion, Bellotti v. Baird,443 U. S. 622; Planned Parenthood of Central Mo. v. Danforth,428 U. S. 52, a statute getting out a mere requirement of parental notice when possible does not violate the constitutional rights of an immature, dependent minor. Pp. 450 U. S. 407-410.

Page 450 U. S. 399

(b) The Utah statute does not give parents a veto power over the minor's abortion decision. As applied to immature and dependent minors, the statute serves important considerations of family integrity and protecting adolescents, as well as providing an opportunity for parents to supply essential medical and other information to the physician. The statute is not unconstitutional for failing to specify what information parents may furnish to physicians, or to provide for a mandatory period of delay after the physician notifies the parents; or because the State allows a pregnant minor to consent to other medical procedures without formal notice to her parents if she carries the child to term; or because the notice requirement may inhibit some minors from seeking abortions. Pp. 450 U. S. 411-413.

604 P.2d 907, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which STWART, J., joined, post, p. 450 U. S. 413. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 450 U. S. 420. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 450 U. S. 425.

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