ST. PAUL, Minnesota — It’s a busy time of year for St. Paul residents Susan and John Neuville, parents of five children, including two teenage girls. As the school year began, they faced a growing stack of permission slips and release forms for their children’s sports clubs and activities.
“I’m required to supply the name of another adult to contact in case of emergency to advise on treatment if I’m unreachable,” Susan said. Without adult permission, her children cannot go on a field trip, have their photo taken, receive basic dental care, be vaccinated or be served ice cream.
“What I would like to understand is how it would make any sense to have that same child decide whether or not to have an abortion,” she said during a news conference at the Minnesota Capitol this September. “Wouldn’t this be the most critical time to ensure that she has the best support available, most likely her own parents?”
Susan Neuville, who was joined by a group of mothers, was speaking out against a July 11 ruling by Ramsey County District Court that struck six abortion laws that were struck down including the law requiring that parents be notified at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor.
Other protections that were struck down included a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion; a requirement that only physicians perform abortions; an abortion data reporting law requiring reporting of information such as reasons for a given abortion, the abortion method used and the stage of fetal development; and a law requiring that abortions performed after the first trimester be done in a hospital.
The ruling also struck down a 2003 law requiring that women know the gestational age of their unborn child, the risks of carrying the child to term and of the abortion procedure, and that they be offered information on the baby’s development and alternatives to abortion.
In his 140-page ruling, Judge Thomas Gilligan Jr. wrote that “These abortion laws violate the right to privacy because they infringe upon the fundamental right under the Minnesota Constitution to access abortion care and do not withstand strict scrutiny.”
Neuville, a member of the pro-life group MOMS — Mothers Offering Maternal Support — had spoken out, along with other group members, against the judge’s decision.
Teresa Collett, a law professor and director of the Prolife Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, is serving in a private capacity as lead counsel for MOMS. She filed a motion to intervene as a party to the lawsuit on behalf of the MOMS group Sept. 12 because only those who are party to a lawsuit can appeal a court ruling, Collett said.
The motion to intervene covered the four protections that specifically pertained to the group’s interest in protecting the health and safety of their daughters: parental notification, informed consent, physicians only and the waiting period.
During an interview for the “Practicing Catholic” radio show that aired Sept. 30, Collett said members of MOMS came together out of their concern to protect not only their daughters, but all Minnesota women, from overreaching by the abortion industry.
She said the group has “asked that the trial court allow us to come in and defend these laws in a way that the attorney general of the state did not … and that’s really the crux of the complaint.”
On Oct. 19, both the plaintiffs — which include an obstetrician-gynecologist who performs abortions and a Minneapolis nonprofit, Our Justice, that provides financial and logistical help to people seeking an abortion — and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who has declined to appeal the ruling, objected to the MOMS’ attempt to intervene. The group’s legal team will respond to the objections, Carlson said.
An official with the Minnesota Catholic Conference said the MOMS face an uphill battle but they have “stepped in where public officials have failed to lead. That is a witness that should inspire all of us.”
Susan Neuville’s husband, John, is the son of the late Tom Neuville, a Catholic Republican state senator in Minnesota for 17 years (1991-2008) who ran on a pro-life platform in 1990.
Susan said he believed in the sanctity of life and defending the rights of the mother and unborn, and coauthored the woman’s right to know legislation in 2003 that now has been declared unconstitutional.
“I believe that all women, especially those underage, should be empowered with a complete understanding of the important aspects of any medical procedure and especially one that is irreversible, potentially life ending and bearing lifelong consequences,” she said.
Another member of MOMS is Barbara Waldorf, a mother of seven, including four daughters. Her late father-in-law, Gene Waldorf, a Democrat state legislator, authored the two-parent notification bill in 1981.
When the bill was drafted, he and other supporters were not trying to put restrictions on abortion, Waldorf said, adding that they believed that parents had a right and a responsibility to be aware of major medical procedures that their minor children might have.
The bill had broad support from the public and “a good amount of bipartisan support,” she said.
“The language of the bill was carefully chosen because at its core, it wasn’t about whether you were pro-life or pro-choice,” Waldorf said at the September press conference. “It was about protecting the health and safety of young women and girls.”
Dr. Michael Valley, an obstetrician-gynecologist in St. Paul who also spoke at the news conference via an audio link, said the state’s abortion laws that had been in place provided a layer of protection, including the parental notification provision for minors.
“Minors have a decision-making process that is not mature and can benefit from parental adult involvement,” Valley said.
He added: “Minors who undergo other medical procedures are required to have parental involvement and sometimes consent before they undergo the procedure, and abortion should be no different.”-
Umberger is on the staff of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.