CINCINNATI, OHIO—On Tuesday, December 7, 2010, the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas delivered a major victory to the plaintiffs in the case Roe v. Planned Parenthood. The parents of Roe allege that Planned Parenthood (PP) employees breached their legal duties in performing an abortion on 14-year-old Roe without her parents’ knowledge, without obtaining adequate informed consent, and that they failed to report suspected sexual abuse.
Judge Jody Luebbers ruled Tuesday that the doctor for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio breached her legal duty by not having an “informed consent” meeting with the teen 24 hours in advance of the abortion. Planned Parenthood lawyers claimed that Ohio’s informed consent laws did not apply to them based on an injunction issued in a previous challenge to the law, Cincinnati Womens’ Services v. Taft. The court in Taft issued an Agreed Order staying the enforcement of the statute which affected only the named defendants in the case and persons acting in concert with them. However, on Tuesday the Judge ruled that the Agreed Order bound only the parties to the Taft case, and did not relieve PP of its duty to comply with the law since they were not a defendant in Taft. Evidence submitted to the Court indicated that PP was notified in writing by their attorney, also the attorney of record in Taft, that the Agreed Order did not enjoin actions by anyone other than the named defendants in Taft.
Brian Hurley, attorney for Jane Roe, told Life Legal, “One of Planned Parenthood’s mantras is that it is very concerned about the health and safety of young girls and it does everything it can to ensure that young girls thinking about having an abortion are provided with the information and support necessary to make a voluntary and informed decision.
Judge Luebbers’ decisions expose the falsity of that mantra, both for Jane Roe and all of the other girls and women who between 1998 and 2005 Planned Parenthood deprived of their right to meet before the abortion with a medical doctor to be certain that the girls’ and womens’ decisions were informed and not coerced.”
Also, under Ohio law, any health-care professional who suspects child abuse, such as a 13-year-old engaging in sex with an adult, must report it. PP did not report in the case of Roe, who at the time of her abortion was 14 years old and the victim of sexual assault by her 22-year-old soccer coach, John Haller. Roe had the abortion in March 2004, and the abuse continued for some time after the abortion. Haller, who began having sex with the girl when she was 13, was ultimately convicted of sexual battery and served three years in prison.
The judge’s ruling leaves just one issue to be resolved at the February trial: whether PP is also liable for failure to contact Roe’s parents before the abortion, as required by Ohio’s parental involvement laws. At the time of the abortion, Roe gave Planned Parenthood workers a cell phone number she said was for her parents. Instead, the number belonged to Haller. Apparently PP made no attempt to confirm that they were speaking with Roe’s parent—an effort which might have saved Roe from much of the abuse that followed. The extent of PP’s liability for this failure remains to be determined. The case is set for trial Feb. 7, 2011. “We believe it will be a significant number.”