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DOE v. ZIMMERMAN

December 3, 1975

Deborah DOE and Dee Do, Individually and on behalf of all other women similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Leroy ZIMMERMAN, Individually and as District Attorney of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and on behalf of himself and all other District Attorneys in Pennsylvania except those in Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

This class action contests the validity of certain sections of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, 1974, P.L. -, No. 209, 35 P.S. § 6601 et seq. The challenged provisions are § 3(b)(i) which requires a husband's consent prior to the performance of an abortion, § 3(b)(ii) which requires parental consent prior to the performance of an abortion on an unmarried minor, §§ 5(a) and 6(b) which require a determination of the non-"viability" of the fetus prior to the performance of an abortion and § 6(d) which requires certain record-keeping by every facility in which an abortion is performed within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A challenge to § 7, which prohibits the payment of public funds for an abortion which is not necessary in order to preserve the life or health of the mother, has been dropped in light of the present array of parties.

 The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases which appear to encompass all of the issues raised in the instant case. See Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 392 F. Supp. 1362 (E.D.Mo.1975), stay granted, 420 U.S. 918, 95 S. Ct. 1111, 43 L. Ed. 2d 389 (probable jurisdiction noted October 6, 1975, 423 U.S. 819, 96 S. Ct. 31, 46 L. Ed. 2d 36, and Baird v. Bellotti, 393 F. Supp. 847 (D.Mass.1975), cert. granted, -- U.S. --, 96 S. Ct. 390, 46 L. Ed. 2d 301 (1975, docketed No. 75-73). The Defendants submit that in light of these appeals this case should be stayed. Although the Plaintiffs agree that the cases before the Supreme Court could resolve all issues contained in this case, they do not concur in the request that this action be postponed. There is no indication of how promptly the Supreme Court will render its decisions in the aforementioned cases or that its decisions will necessarily dispose of the matters raised here. Because any further delay in this action would be significantly adverse to the interests of the Plaintiffs, this Court will proceed to a decision.

 I. Spousal Consent.

 Section 3(b)(i) *fn1" requires the written consent of the husband of a married woman before she may receive an abortion unless the husband is not readily available or unless the abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

 A state may intervene in the abortion decision based upon a compelling interest in the health of the pregnant woman after the first three months of pregnancy but is limited to activity reasonably related to her health such as issuance of regulations concerning the qualifications of the performing physician and the medical standards of the facilities involved. The state may intervene to prevent an abortion in the interest of the fetus in its potential life only when the compelling point of "viability" is reached and may at that point prohibit all abortions except those necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1973); Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, 93 S. Ct. 739, 35 L. Ed. 2d 201 (1973). Since the Supreme Court has precluded a state's intervention except as just described, the Court is of the view that the state may not interfere on behalf of a husband to protect his interest in the potential life of the fetus until the fetus becomes "viable". Cf. Doe v. Rampton, 366 F. Supp. 189 (D.Utah 1973), Circuit Judge Lewis, District Judges Ritter and Anderson; Coe v. Gerstein, 376 F. Supp. 695 (S.D.Fla.1974), Circuit Judge Dyer, District Judges Mehrtens and Eaton. Furthermore, the scheme created by the husband's consent provision fails to give any recognition to the mother's fundamental, though qualified, right to decide to have an abortion. Cf. Planned Parenthood Association, et al. v. Fitzpatrick, Civil No. 74-2440, 401 F. Supp. 554 (E.D.Pa. 1975), Circuit Judge Adams, District Judges Newcomer and Green, and cases collected therein. No attempt is made in the Act to balance the interest of the pregnant woman with whatever constitutional right the husband may have to participate in the abortion decision.

 The Defendants argue that § 3(b)(i) is a manifestation of the state's valid interest in promoting familial and conjugal relationships. The Court is in no position to pass on that argument because it is not presented by this controversy. Section 3(b)(i) does not in any way attempt to narrow its impact on the mother's fundamental right to an abortion by delineating the "familial" or "conjugal" grounds upon which a husband may rely to deny his consent. Thus, it is entirely possible under the statute for a husband to withhold his consent to an abortion capriciously or on the grounds, for example, of an interest in the potential life of the fetus even though the mother is only several weeks pregnant. Prohibition of an abortion based on such a withholding of consent constitutes an interference by the state in a manner which has already been invalidated by Roe v. Wade, supra, and Doe v. Bolton, supra. In Coe v. Gerstein, supra, a similar spousal consent requirement was declared defective on the grounds that it gave husbands the authority to withhold consent for abortions for many reasons or for no reason at all.

 We hold that § 3(b)(i) of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act is unconstitutional.

 Section 3(b)(ii) *fn2" requires the written consent of the parent or parents of an unmarried minor before she may receive an abortion unless a licensed physician certifies that the abortion is necessary to preserve her life.

 This provision contains the same defects as the spousal consent requirement discussed above. Primarily, it, too, makes no attempt to balance the interest of the unmarried minor against whatever constitutional right her parents may have to participate in the abortion decision. Also, like the spousal consent provision, no attempt has been made to tailor the parental consent provision so as to limit its impact on the pregnant minor's protected interests in an abortion. Finally, as is pointed out in Planned Parenthood Association v. Fitzpatrick, supra, the section inexplicably contradicts the provisions of Pennsylvania's "Minor's Consent to Medical, Dental, and Health Services" Act of 1970, P.L. 19, No. 10, §§ 1-5, 35 P.S. §§ 10101-10105.

 We hold that § 3(b)(ii) of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act is unconstitutional.

 III. Abortions Subsequent to Viability.

 Section 6(b) *fn3" provides that no abortion may be performed subsequent to "viability" of the fetus except where necessary, in the judgment of a licensed physician, to preserve the life or health of the mother. The joint operation of sections 6(b) and 5(a) *fn4" of the Abortion Control Act requires a determination prior to a nontherapeutic abortion that the fetus is not "viable." *fn5" If a finding of "viability" is made but a therapeutic abortion is nevertheless necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother, the person performing the abortion is required to use every degree of professional skill to preserve the life and health of the fetus. The Plaintiffs contend that these provisions are unconstitutional in that they permit the state to regulate abortions in a way contrary to the ...


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