An Ohio court judge ruled on Tuesday that a Planned Parenthood clinic failed to follow informed consent laws in the case of a teenage girl who was being sexually assaulted by her 22-year-old coach.
Hamilton County Court Judge Jody Luebbers ruled in a 2005 lawsuit that a Cincinnati Planned Parenthood clinic violated a state statute requiring that patients be briefed about the potential risks associated with an abortion and about other options in an informed consent meeting 24 hours before performing an abortion.
Prior to the Tuesday ruling, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio disputed whether it was legally bound to uphold the 1998 statute and another requiring abortion clinics to obtain written parental consent. The operator cited a ‘90s lawsuit challenging the laws’ constitutionality.
However, Luebbers found that the statute of informed consent did apply to the procedure, and that the clinic breached their legal responsibilities.
“There was no dispute that [the clinic] did not have the 24-hour meeting,” said Brian Hurley, the attorney representing the teen.
The ruling means that the clinic operator may have to pay.
The event that prompted the lawsuit began in 2003 when John Haller, a soccer coach, began having sex with “Jane Roe,” then 13. In 2004, she became pregnant. Haller encouraged the pregnant teen – who reportedly also had a sexually transmitted infection – to seek an abortion. The teen received the abortion, performed by a medical doctor.
The clinic did not obtain written consent from the teen’s parents. Instead, clinic officials called a cell phone number the teen said was her parents’ number. Haller was on the other end pretending to be the girl’s father.
Haller was eventually convicted of sexual battery in 2004 and spent three years in prison. The parents of the youth sued Planned Parenthood in 2005.
Hurley called the entire situation, “ludicrous,” saying he would not approve of his sons attending a slumber party without having first met the parents hosting the party or at least calling a land line. Yet, the clinic approved a minor to have a medical procedure base on the word of an unidentified caller.
In court, Hurley initially alleged the case was part of “a pattern and practice of failing to meet the duties of these statutes.” He said the case has been “to the Ohio Supreme Court and back” for three years trying to sequester redacted documents from Planned Parenthood’s Cincinnati office.
In 2009, Hurley and the family moved forward with the case without the documents. And they prevailed in court.
Hurley warned that the victory is a partial one. The judge has left it up to a jury to decide whether or not the clinic made sufficient efforts to contact the teen’s parents.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio said they did.
“If [Planned Parenthood] wants to play, we’ll play,” waged Hurley.
The case goes to trial Feb. 7, 2011.