As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on New Hampshire's parental-notification law, an increasing number of states are requiring parents to be involved when their teenage daughter considers abortion.
In all, 34 states now enforce parental notification or consent laws. Florida, Ohio, and Oklahoma each passed such laws in 2005. The statutes require minors to include their parents in the decisionOhio requires parental consent, while Florida and Oklahoma mandate only notification.
All three states allow judges to bypass the law, while Florida and Oklahoma also permit doctors to perform abortions during medical emergencies.
The increase is partly due to a deliberate effort by right-to-life leaders. "The strategy is to do this state by state," John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, told CT. Mary Balch, director of state legislation for National Right to Life, said the remaining 16 states that don't require parental involvement represent "the last frontier." Among those is California, whose voters on November 8 narrowly rejected a proposed parental-notification law.
Nine states that passed such laws have not yet enforced them. New Hampshire's suspended 2003 statute provides the basis for Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, which went before the Supreme Court on November 30. Opposing sides in that case debated whether parents should be notified when their daughter is facing medical complications or only when their daughter's life is in danger. They also argued about whether the parents of a girl younger than 18 must be notified at least 48 hours in advance of the abortion.
It is unclear how a ruling either way would affect similar laws. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court's decision to invalidate New Hampshire's law, statutes in other states could be at risk, said Clarke Forsythe, director of Americans United for Life's Project in Law and Bioethics. Forsythe and Whitehead said the Court also might send the law back to lower courts to be more narrowly tailored.
Regardless of the high court's decision, right-to-life leaders aim to extend the reach of parental-involvement laws through federal legislation.
On April 27, the U.S. House of Representatives easily passed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act. The bill would make it a federal offense to transport a minor across state lines in order to evade a state parental-notification law, unless the state court had issued a waiver. A companion measure in the Senate has attracted 37 sponsors.
Women younger than 18 accounted for about 91,000 of the 1.3 million abortions in 2000, according to an Alan Guttmacher Institute survey published in 2002.
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The Supreme Court has its oral arguments available online.
Weblog has previously commented on the case.
The lower court decision is available from Findlaw.com.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute has a state by state list of where parental consent or notification is or is not required.
New Hampshire's Union Leader has a full coverage page of the case.
News elsewhere on Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood includes:
What's at Stake in the Roberts Court's First Abortion Case: Surprisingly Little | Last week, the Roberts Court heard oral argument in its first abortion case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood. The big news was that--despite the Court's change in personnel --the case will not likely result in any profound change in its abortion jurisprudence. (Michael C. Dorf, Findlaw.com, Dec. 05, 2005)
Abortion Battles Without Much Effect On Abortions | As is usual in abortion battles, the interest-group hysteria and media hype overstate what's really at stake in the cases currently before the Supreme Court. (The Atlantic, Dec. 6, 2005)
A parent's right to know | Pro-choice advocates have opposed parental notice and consent laws with unbridled passion that often seems more a matter of blind faith than reasoned principle. (Jonathan Turley, USA Today)
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