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Daily Women's Health Policy

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:11pm
((( from the Kaiser Network )))
The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in the case Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which challenges the constitutionality of a New Hampshire law ( HB 763 ) requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortion. The law -- which has been struck down by two lower courts because it lacks an exception for a pregnant minor's health and has never been enforced -- requires physicians in the state to notify by certified letter a parent or guardian of a minor who is seeking abortion at least 48 hours before performing the procedure. Parents are barred from forbidding the procedure, and the notification requirement could be bypassed by a judge if a doctor determines that the minor's life is in danger. Many of the Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed to be leaning toward sending the case back to a lower court with instructions only to consider a challenge to whether the law was enforceable in cases where a physician decides an immediate abortion without parental consent or a judicial bypass is necessary to protect a minor's health ( Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1). The case also could address whether a court can prohibit the enforcement of abortion-related laws that have not yet gone into effect ( Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 11/29). Several newspapers recently published opinion pieces on the case, some of which are summarized below

Editorials

Indianapolis Star: New Hampshire's parental notification law is "a common-sense requirement recognizing that parents have both rights and responsibilities in regard to their children's health" and is not intended to "chip away" at Roe v. Wade -- the 1973 case that effectively barred state abortion bans -- a Star editorial says. "The real issue" in the case is "whether parental rights and common sense will survive if the court tosses out the New Hampshire law," the editorial concludes (Indianapolis Star, 12/1).

New York Times: The case "challenges two long-standing pillars of abortion-rights jurisprudence, reproductive freedom and the authority of the courts" and will have "real-world consequences for the lives of women and the rule of law," a Times editorial says. The case's procedural issues have "serious" implications that could lead to a "radical court-stripping plan, one that would leave state legislatures free to ignore the Supreme Court's parameters for abortion regulation until a minor, already ... in the midst of a medical crisis, somehow made it to court to challenge the law," the editorial says (New York Times, 11/30).

Washington Post: The Supreme Court justices should uphold the law except for cases where a physician believes waiting 48 hours or "dealing with a judicial proceeding would compromise his or her patient's health," a Post editorial says. "It would be needlessly aggressive to throw out the entire statute," but the "court must ensure that New Hampshire does not prevent minors whose health require it from getting abortions in a timely fashion," the editorial concludes (Washington Post, 12/1).

Wilmington News Journal: "The real needs of girls and women don't go away just because a law makes no allowances for them," a News Journal editorial says. By approving "abortion restrictions that really mean to prevent access," lawmakers "in effect practice medicine without a license, threatening the professionals responsible for actual complications and not imaginary cases," according to the editorial (Wilmington News Journal, 12/3).

Opinion Pieces

Greg Abbott, Houston Chronicle: "An adverse decision" in the Ayotte case "could undercut parents in Texas and across the country who want to play a role in their daughters' decisions," Texas Attorney General Abbott (R) writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. The measure "simply takes steps to ensure that a minor [considering an abortion] -- who may not have the maturity or capacity for an informed choice -- has a reasonable opportunity to receive guidance and understanding" from a parent or guardian, Abbott writes, concluding that parental notification "laws are needed, they are constitutional, and I urge the Supreme Court to affirm them" (Abbott, Houston Chronicle, 11/29).

Linda Campbell, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Although "[m]ost rational people who care about families and children and proper health care wouldn't argue against responsible parental involvement in such emotionally and physically momentous decisions," parents, teens "and all who care about them don't need a court order to work on those issues themselves," Star-Telegram editorial writer Campbell writes in an opinion piece. "However the court rules" in the case, the decision "won't make families stronger" and "won't make teens choose birth over abortion when reckless sex results in pregnancy," Campbell says (Campbell, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 12/1).
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