Parental Rights in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Parental Rights News

2017 Legislative Summary

2017 State Legislative Recap

June 7, 2017

In most states, the 2017 legislative session has finished up or is winding down. Eight state legislatures work year-round or at least for several more months, and five others are poised to adjourn unofficially in a few days (but officially are year-round, too). That leaves 37 states ready to head home for the summer. Among…

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Pennsylvania State Law and Parental Rights

At Risk

Pennsylvania does not have a state statute that explicitly defines and protects parental rights as fundamental rights.

2019-2020: Rep. James Cox, with 16 cosponsors, introduced HB 508, a bill to protect parental rights, on April 9, 2019. It was referred to the Committee on Children and Youth, and hasn’t moved out for a House vote.

If you're a PA resident, please call members of committee, especially the chair, Rep. Boback, to vote it out. We also encourage you to call your State Reps. to co-sponser the bill.

2015-16: Rep. Tallman, with 12 cosponsors, introduced HB1512, a bill to protect parental rights, on Aug. 26, 2015. It was referred to the Committee on Children and Youth, but it did not receive a hearing.

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Pennsylvania Courts and Parental Rights

"Strict Scrutiny" Applied to Parental Rights

Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly recognized the rights of parents to oversee the care of their children as a fundamental right deserving of the strict scrutiny standard. However, this precedent is subject to change.

  • In Schmehl v. Wegelin, 927 A.2d 183, 188 (Pa. 2007), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that "any infringement of such right [parental rights] requires strict scrutiny review to determine whether the infringement is supported by a compelling state interest and if the infringement is narrowly tailored to effectuate that interest," citing Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, at 65.
  • D.P. v. G.J.P., 2016 Pa. LEXIS 2003 (Pa. Sept. 9, 2016):

"There is no dispute that Section 5325 burdens the right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children; that such right is a fundamental one; and that, as such, it is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's due-process and equal-protection guarantees. In light of these factors there is also no disagreement that, to survive a due process or equal protection challenge, Section 5325 must satisfy the constitutional standard known as strict scrutiny.

"The basic features of strict scrutiny, relating to whether the governmental action is narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest, are well established." (Internal citations omitted.)