H. L. v. Matheson
Argued October 6, 1980
Decided March 23, 1981
Full case nameH. L. v. Scott M. Matheson, Governor of Utah, et al.
Citations450 U.S. 398 (more)
101 S. Ct. 1164; 67 L. Ed. 2d 388; 1981 U.S. LEXIS 81
Case history
Prior604 P.2d 907 (Utah 1979); probable jurisdiction noted, 445 U.S. 903 (1980).
A state may require a doctor to inform a teenaged girl's parents before performing an abortion or face criminal penalty.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
MajorityBurger, joined by Stewart, White, Powell, Rehnquist
ConcurrencePowell, joined by Stewart
DissentMarshall, joined by Brennan, Blackmun

H. L. v. Matheson, 450 U.S. 398 (1981), was a United States Supreme Court abortion rights case, according to which a state may require a doctor to inform a teenaged girl's parents before performing an abortion or face criminal penalty.[1]


A female minor, known by her initials H.L., was living in Utah with her parents when she became pregnant in 1978. A doctor advised H.L. that an abortion would be in her best medical interests. A Utah law enacted in 1974 required abortion providers to "[n]otify, if possible" the parents of any female under the age of majority who is scheduled to undergo an abortion, at least 24 hours before the abortion.[2] Violation was a misdemeanor subject to a fine up to $1000 and/or several months imprisonment. H.L. initiated a lawsuit as part of a proposed class action of unmarried unemancipated females, arguing that Utah's parental notification statute was unconstitutional. Scott M. Matheson, then the governor of Utah, was named as the defendant.

The case made its way to the Utah Supreme Court, where the law was upheld as consistent with Roe v. Wade (1973). The judgment noted, among other points, that H.L.'s proposed class action was overly broad; and that the Utah statute mandated parental notification but did not grant parents authority to stop such an abortion.[3]

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Utah's statute was upheld on a 6 to 3 vote.

See also


  1. ^ H. L. v. Matheson, 450 U.S. 398 (1981).
  2. ^ Utah Code Annotated § 76-7-304(2). Note that as of 2008, the law has been revised to exclude parental notification requirement if a doctor advises an abortion is medically necessary to save the mother's life or avoid serious medical complications, if the parents have a history of abuse towards the minor female, if the pregnancy is a result of parental incest, or if the parents have not assumed responsibility for the minor's care and upbringing.
  3. ^ H. L. v. Matheson, 604 P.2d 907 (Utah 1979).

Further reading