High Court Steers Clear of Abortion Ruling

The Supreme Court avoided a major ruling Wednesday on a New Hampshire abortion case under the new Roberts court. In an opinion written by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, justices ruled the lower court's decision went too far in permanently blocking the law that requires notifying a parent before ending pregnancy.

"In this case, the courts below chose the most blunt remedy," said O'Connor.

The abortion law, which requires a 48-hour waiting period after parental notification and has no exception for medical emergencies, had been passed in 2003 but never took effect. An abortion could be performed, however, if a judge rules the minor is mature enough to give informed consent herself. The abortion restrictions were recently struck down by a lower court.

While O'Connor stated "it would be unconstitutional to apply the act in a manner that subjects minors to significant health risks," she said the federal appeals court "need not have invalidated the law wholesale."

The high court steered clear of a major ruling on its first abortion case in five years - Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England - telling the lower court to reconsider whether the entire law is unconstitutional.

Justices were told that 24 states mandate parental approval and 19, including New Hampshire, demand parental notice.