Abortion Restrictions for Young Women Challenged in New Hampshire

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and New Hampshire medical providers filed a lawsuit in federal court early this week to stop New Hampshire’s new law requiring parental notification for abortion from taking effect. The law requires parental notification at least 48 hours before a physician may provide an abortion to a young woman under 18, has no exception for circumstances where the delay would threaten the health of the woman, and does not set out any confidentiality guidelines for the judicial bypass procedure a young woman must go through to obtain an abortion without the consent of her parents.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represents the medical providers in the case, argue that the law is unconstitutional. Jennifer Dalven, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and a lawyer representing the groups, said, “The law’s dangerously narrow ‘death exception’ requires a doctor to wait until a young woman is on the brink of disaster before the physician can provide life-saving medical care. The Constitution forbids the government from forcing young women to undergo these risks.” According to Dalven, the New Hampshire legislature “passed a blatantly unconstitutional law.” Other state legislatures have recognized the need for a health exception and federal courts have in the past struck down abortion restrictions that failed to include exceptions for preserving the health of the mother.

According the Union Leader, Jennifer Frizzell, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, stressed the law’s dangerous effects on young women. “Far from protecting teens,” Frizzell said, according to the Union Leader, “this law actually endangers the health and lives of young women who need abortions in New Hampshire.”

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Union Leader 11/18/03; The Telegraph 11/18/03; ACLU 11/17/03; Planned Parenthood 11/17/03

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