Split Vote Affirms Abortion-Law Decision
Washington--By an equally divided vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed a federal appellate court's decision striking down an Illinois law that restricted the ability of teen-age girls to obtain abortions.
The 4-to-4 decision, handed down without a written opinion on Dec. 14, set no nationwide precedent.
The deadlock underscored the key role that Anthony M. Kennedy, President Reagan's nominee to the vacancy on the Court, will play if he is confirmed by the Senate.
Mr. Kennedy, currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, was received warmly by both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which completed hearings on his nomination Dec. 16.
Generally described as a moderate conservative in the mold of Associate Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., who retired from the Court last summer, Judge Kennedy is widely expected to be approved by the full Senate later this month.
The 1983 Illinois law, which was passed over Gov. James R. Thompson's veto, required girls under 18 to notify both of their parents and wait 24 hours before having abortions.
It also included a "bypass" provision that permitted state circuit-court judges to waive the notification requirement if they determined that the girl seeking an abortion was mature enough to reach her own decision or that notifying her parents would not be in her best interest.
Ruling in 1984 on the challenge to the law, Hartigan v. Zbaraz (Case No. 85-673), a federal district court held all aspects of the law unconstitutional. One year later, a federal appeals court agreed that the notification requirement was too burdensome on minors, but it reserved judgment on the bypass provision.
More than 20 other states have passed similar laws, but about half the measures--including the one in Illinois--have been blocked by courts from taking effect.
Late last month, for example, a superior-court judge in San Francisco issued an injunction that prevented the Jan. 1 implementation of a California law that would require teen-age girls to obtain the consent of at least one of their parents before obtaining an abortion.
Also last month, Gov. Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania vetoed a bill that would have required girls to notify their parents or obtain a court order before having an abortion.
The Justices are widely expected to revisit the issue once there are nine members on the bench and after a federal appeals court rules on one of the other state laws.
In other recent action, the Court:
Agreed to decide whether the United States Catholic Conference can be required to turn over documents to a federal judge in a case in which abortion-rights groups are attempting to force the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the Roman Catholic Church's tax-exempt status.
Abortion Rights Mobilization Inc., a coalition of groups favoring individual choice on abortion, filed suit in 1982, arguing that the church's anti-abortion efforts violated irs rules prohibiting tax-exempt organizations from engaging in political activity.
In 1983, a federal district judge ordered the uscc and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide the court with church documents relevant to the dispute. Lawyers for the church have refused to comply, arguing that the plaintiffs lack legal standing to force the irs to revoke the church's exemption.
The case is uscc v. arm (No. 87-416).
Declined to review a case inel10lwhich a multiply handicapped 9-year-old girl had attempted to force a Cayuga County, N.Y., school district to provide her with a nurse while she attended school.
The suit, Detsel v. Board of Education of Auburn Enlarged City School District (No. 87-615), was filed in federal district court in 1985 by the parents of Melissa Detsel, who was born with an abnormally developed diaphragm and lungs. Because she needs respiratory and feeding assistance and is vulnerable to heart failure, the girl requires constant care from a registered or licensed practical nurse.
A federal district judge ruled in 1986 that constant nursing care was not a "related service" mandated by the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, P.L. 94-142. A federal appellate court upheld that decision last year.