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The state's interest in enforcing the statutory classification between minors seeking abortion and minors seeking medical care for their pregnancies fails to override the substantial intrusions it imposes on a young woman's fundamental right to an abortion and is unconstitutional under the equal protection principles set forth in the New Jersey Constitution.
Plaintiffs, Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey, brought an action seeking a declaratory judgment and preliminary injunction precluding enforcement of the Parental Notification for Abortion Act. The Parental Notification for Abortion Act sets forth the Legislature's findings that there exist compelling and important State interests in protecting minors from the consequences of decisions that are not fully informed, in fostering the family structure and in protecting the rights of parents to rear their children. To effectuate these State interests, the Act requires a physician to wait at least forty-eight hours after written notice has been given to the parent of an unemancipated minor before performing an abortion. The trial court sustained the Act against plaintiffs' facial challenge. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the Act under equal protection principles because it conditioned a minor's right to obtain an abortion on parental notification, unless a judicial waiver was obtained, but did not impose corresponding limitations on a minor who sought medical and surgical care otherwise related to her pregnancy.
Was the Parental Notification for Abortion Act constitutional?
The court reversed the judgment because the classification created by the legislature under the Parental Notification for Abortion Act burdened the fundamental right of a woman to control her body and destiny, without adequate justification. The court found that the State did not offer adequate justification for distinguishing between minors seeking an abortion and minors seeking medical and surgical care relating to their pregnancies. Further, the court determined that plaintiffs presented compelling evidence that neither the interests of parents nor the interests of minors were advanced by the Act, and that there was no principled basis for imposing special burdens only on that class of minors seeking an abortion. Thus, the court then held that it was unconstitutional under the equal protection principles set forth in State of New Jersey Constitution.