SCOTUS returns challenged Indiana ‘parental notification’ law to 7th Circuit following Dobbs

The U.S. Supreme Court has returned to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals a decision challenging an Indiana law that would require parents to be notified if a court approves an abortion for a minor child without parental consent.

Justices ordered the case of Kristina Box, Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, et al. v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc., be re-evaluated by the 7th Circuit in light of last week’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which effectively overturned decades of abortion protections afforded by Roe v. Wade.

The case involves a challenge to Senate Enrolled Act 404, a 2017 law that, had it taken effect, would have required “mature minors” to notify their parents before undergoing an abortion procedure, even if a court determined parental consent was not required for the abortion.

Continued discordance among 7th Circuit judges on the state statute has previously brought the challenged state law to SCOTUS’ doorsteps.

An injunction was issued against the law in 2017 by Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, which the 7th Circuit affirmed in August 2019.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert but ultimately remanded the case for another 7th Circuit review in light of June Medical Services LLC v. Russo140 S. Ct. 2103 (2020).

The 7th Circuit again upheld the injunction in March 2021, prompting Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita to ask SCOTUS to take up the case.

SCOTUS granted Indiana’s petition and vacated the 7th Circuit’s decision on June 30, remanding to the lower court for further consideration in light of Dobbs.

“Following the landmark Dobbs decision, we eagerly anticipate clearer paths for Indiana’s commonsense laws protecting unborn children and their mothers,” Rokita said in a Thursday statement. “We are grateful for the new day that has dawned, and we will remain steadfast in our fight for life.”

Rokita on Monday had asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to lift multiple injunctions against state abortion laws, including the parental consent law. His office on Thursday said that the district court has since “expedited briefing” at Rokita’s request.

Also in support of SCOTUS’ return of Box v. Planned Parenthood to the 7th Circuit is nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed an amicus brief in support of the Indiana law.

“All this law has sought to do is uphold the duty and desire of parents to protect their own children rather than allow them to be taken advantage of by others,” said Denise Harle, ADF senior counsel and ADF Center for Life director. “We trust that the 7th Circuit will conclude, now that the Supreme Court has returned policy decisions of this sort to the states, that Indiana’s law ensuring that parents have the opportunity to be involved in their children’s life-changing decisions is legitimate.”

In a joint statement, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates of Indiana and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana expressed their opposition to the decision, arguing that Hoosier youth are “fully capable of making their own decisions about their futures.”

“This law is an unconscionable intrusion into patients’ lives and will force health professionals to delay care and disregard their patients’ confidentiality — even when that could be dangerous for their patient’s safety,” the groups said. “State laws that mandate parental consent contradict the ethical and professional training of medical professionals, and, in some terrible cases, expose a young person to dangerous situations like abuse.”

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