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U.S. Supreme Court Reviews New Hampshire's Parental Notification Law

The New Hampshire’s parental notification law required parents of minors under the age of 18 to be notified in person or by certified mail at least 48 hours before an abortion.
( [email protected] ) May 26, 2005 12:20 AM EDT

The U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday agreed to review the lower court decision on New Hampshire’s parental notification law on whether or not it should includes exception for medical emergencies.

The lower courts declared the law unconstitutional because it did not include an exception for medical emergencies. The New Hampshire’s parental notification law required parents of minors under the age of 18 to be notified in person or by certified mail at least 48 hours before an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union supports the decision of lower court and pointed out the New Hampshire’s parental notification law restricts teenager accesses to the health care and the delay would put the mother’s health in risk.

"A Supreme Court ruling in this case will put to rest any lingering question about whether a woman’s right to abortion is entitled to full Constitutional protection," said Jennifer Dalven, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "We are confident that the Court will uphold the lower court’s ruling and ensure that women will continue to be able to access the health care they need.", stated in ACLU press release.

ACLU suggests that the law forces physicians to delay emergency medical care until a young woman is facing imminent death.

"The main question in this case is how many women facing medical emergencies have to have their abortions delayed and health put at risk before the Court holds a law unconstitutional," Dalven said. "As a matter of public health, clearly the answer is one woman is one woman too many."

The New Hampshire officials requested a review of the state parental notification law, and a clarification for what legal standards should be applied to decide the constitutionality of abortion laws.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled against Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortions, saying that the ban hindered women’s abortion rights. The court also ruled that abortion laws must include an exception for instances when a mother’s health is at risk.

Since 2000, the Supreme Court has declined to review several cases regarding abortion, including an appeal to re-establish a parental notification law in Idaho and a challenge to the ruling of Roe v. Wade by the woman who was “Jane Roe.”

Monday’s decision to accept the New Hampshire case comes at a crucial time when a vacancy on the Supreme Court may open up. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has been battling cancer and is expected to retire soon. Abortion will be a key topic of debate in deciding his replacement.

The New Hampshire abortion law case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, will be heard during the next term that begins in October. A decision is expected sometime early next year.