Brief Filed in New Hampshire Parental Notification Law Case

Supporters for a parental notification law in New Hampshire filed a brief on Tuesday, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the law for the protection of minors.

In November 2003, the New Hampshire Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act was challenged by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. The act requires that doctors notify parents of minors at least 48 hours before performing an abortion. Doctors who fail to do so would face criminal penalties.

Planned Parenthood claimed that the new law was unconstitutional because it lacked an exception for cases when the mother’s life or health may be in danger. However, the law does stipulate that notification may be waived in emergencies.

A federal court agreed with Planned Parenthood’s challenge and blocked the law from taking effect, saying that the law places undue burden on a woman’s right to choose. The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

In May this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, making this the first abortion case to be heard by the court since 2000. The case will decide whether abortion laws must include an exception for the mother’s health, and is also expected to set standards for judging the constitutionality of abortion laws.

Opponents of the notification law say that it will restrict access to abortions and violate the privacy of minors. Supporters of the law argue that abortion is a serious health decision that minors should not make without the participation of their parents.

“If minors require parental consent in order to have their bodies pierced, tattooed, or tanned, why shouldn’t their parents be notified about something as life-changing as abortion?” asked John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. The Institute filed the “friend of the court” brief asking the court to uphold New Hampshire’s law.

“This case presents the Supreme Court with an extraordinary opportunity to apply principles of law that acknowledge the rights reserved to states and the people to protect minors who confront serious life-changing decisions such as abortion,” said Whitehead.

The case will be heard when the Supreme Court resumes activities in the fall.