Do Minors and Adults Both Possess Constitutional Rights ?

In Prince v. Massachusetts (321 US 158 [1944]), the Court held that the state's child labor laws trumped the parent's right to have her child engage in religious activity in public and the child's independent right to do so. (The case involved the public distribution of the religious magazine Watchtower by the parent and child who were both Jehovah's Witnesses.) Prince stands for the proposition that the state has parens patriae authority over children up to a point and that point, wherever it may be, was not crossed in this case. Any interpretive methodology as to how a court is to make a determination like this is missing from Prince. In analogizing to the state's authority to impose compulsory education of minors, the Court cites with approval State v. Bailey (157 Ind 324, 61 NE 730 [1901]) which held, without any constitutional introspection: "The natural rights of a parent to the custody and control of his infant child are subordinate to the power of the State, and may be restricted and regulated by municipal laws ... the welfare of the child, and the best interests of society require that the State shall exert its sovereign authority to secure to the child the opportunity to acquire an education." ( Bailey, 157 Ind at 329, 61 NE at 731-732.) Bailey, like Prince, is bereft of any constitutional interpretational analysis and silent on any attempt to balance a parent's right to determine the best interest of his or her child with this assumed authority of the state to know what is best for children. In Planned Parenthood v. Danforth (428 US 52 [1976]), the Court was called on to balance the rights of a parent to the custody and control of his or her child and the right of the child to obtain an abortion, as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. The Missouri statute in question required parental consent for an unmarried woman less than 18 to obtain an abortion. The Court held that, in these circumstances, the child's constitutional rights outweighed the parent's. "Just as with the requirement of consent from the spouse, so here, the State does not have the constitutional authority to give a third party an absolute, and possibly arbitrary, veto over the decision of the physician and his patient to terminate the patient's pregnancy, regardless of the reason for withholding the consent. "Constitutional rights do not mature and come into being magically only when one attains the state-defined age of majority. Minors, as well as adults, are protected by the Constitution and possess constitutional rights." (Danforth at 74.)