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Bellotti v. Baird (1979)

In Brief

Bellotti v. Baird (1979): Court creates "judicial bypass" standard for parental consent laws

The Massachusetts legislature passed a law requiring abortion doctors to receive the consent of both parents before performing a non-emergency abortion on a minor girl or, if either refused consent, to receive authorization for the abortion from a judge.

Massachusetts abortion clinic director William Baird, along with an abortion doctor and a minor girl who wanted an abortion without her parents' knowledge, filed suit claiming the law created an undue burden on the right to abortion.

The Supreme Court agreed, concluding that the required attempt to obtain parental consent first worked as notice to the parents of the judicial proceeding and therefore imposed an undue burden on the minor girl's right to abortion. The Court said minor girls must have the option to go directly to court without their parents' knowledge to seek authorization for an abortion, and that authorization should be given if the court believes the girl is mature and well-enough informed to make the abortion decision on her own or, if not, that the abortion nevertheless would be in her best interests.

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