Supreme Court Unanimously Remands Parental Notification Case to Lower Court

The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled to send the New Hampshire parental notification case back to the lower courts, avoiding a decision about whether such laws place an undue burden on women seeking abortions when they lack any exception to protect the health of the young woman in medical emergencies. Writing for the Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor emphasized, “We do not revisit our abortion precedents today, but rather address a question of remedyÉ We hold that invalidating the statute entirely is not always necessary or justifiedÉ” The Supreme Court asked the lower court to find a more narrow and modest remedy than permanently blocking enforcement of the law.

The case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, involved a 2003 New Hampshire law that made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion on a minor without notifying a parent or guardian of the minor and then waiting 48 hours. The only exceptions to the law were for young women whose lives were in danger or who obtained a judicial bypass. At issue is the law’s lack of an exception to preserve a young woman’s health in the case of a medical emergency. The Supreme Court in 2000 ruled that a Nebraska abortion procedure ban was unconstitutional because that law lacked a health exception.

LEARN MORE Read an article in Ms. about the New Hampshire case as well as a case involving anti-abortion clinic violence

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Supreme Court decision 1/18/06; Ms. Magazine Winter 2006

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