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Restrictions on Young Women's Access to Abortion

Colorado law restricts young women's access to abortion.

Is the law enforceable?  Yes.

Who is considered a minor?  A young woman under the age of 18.

What is required - parental consent or parental notice?  Notice.

Who must be notified?  Two parents, with some exceptions.

Are there other trusted adults who may be notified instead?  Yes, the physician may notify a grandparent, aunt, or uncle in lieu of a parent, if the young woman is not living with her parents and is living with one of those adult relatives.

What is the process for providing notification?  A young woman may not obtain an abortion until at least 48 hours after written notice has been delivered personally or by certified mail by the attending physician to one of her parents.  If the parents reside together, delivery to one parent shall constitute delivery to both.  If the parents do not reside together and the young woman requests that only one parent be notified, that request shall be honored.  If notice is sent by certified mail, the 48-hour period begins to run at noon on the next day on which regular mail delivery takes place.  Whenever the parents are separately served notice, the 48-hour period begins upon delivery of the first notice.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of rape or incest?  No.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of child abuse?  Yes, if the young woman declares she is a victim of child abuse or neglect by a person entitled to notice and the attending physician has reported such child abuse or neglect.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman's health is threatened?  Yes, but only if a medical emergency exists.  A medical emergency is defined as a medical condition of the young woman that necessitates an immediate abortion to preserve her life or for which a delay will create "a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

May the parental mandate be waived under any other circumstances?  Yes, the young woman may try to obtain permission from a judge.

If a young woman must obtain permission from a judge, what is the process?  She must secure a court order stating either that parental notice is not in her best interests or that, by clear and convincing evidence, she is sufficiently mature to decide whether to have an abortion.

Are there other significant requirements under the law?  No.

Has a court considered the constitutionality of this law?  No.

Other information about the law:  An earlier version of this law was enacted by a ballot initiative.  A court held that version of the law was unconstitutional because it failed to provide a health exception and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting its enforcement.  Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Servs. Corp. v. Owens, 287 F.3d 910 (10th Cir. 2002).  In response to the court decision, the state legislature enacted supplemental language that provides a medical-emergency exception, expands the list of adults to whom notification may be given, and establishes a judicial-bypass procedure.  The law is now in effect.

In addition, Colorado's pre-Roe abortion law provides that an unmarried minor under 18 may not obtain an abortion without the consent of one parent.  Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-6-101(1) (Enacted 1967), § 18-6-102 (Enacted 1967).  A court held that this parental-consent requirement is unconstitutional.  Foe v. Vanderhoof, 389 F. Supp. 947 (D. Colo. 1975).

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 12-37.5-101, -102, -108 (Enacted by Initiative 1998), §§ 12-37.5-103 to -107 (Enacted by Initiative 1998; Last Amended 2003).

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