ACLU Confident the U.S. Supreme Court Will Uphold Lower Court Decision Striking New Hampshire Law Restricting Teenagers' Access to Abortion

May 23, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to review a lower court ruling striking down a New Hampshire law restricting teenagers’ access to abortion.

“A Supreme Court ruling in this case will put to rest any lingering question about whether a woman’s right to abortion is entitled to full Constitutional protection,” said Jennifer Dalven, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are confident that the Court will uphold the lower court’s ruling and ensure that women will continue to be able to access the health care they need.”

The law in question requires health care providers to notify a parent at least 48 hours before providing an abortion to a woman under the age of 18, unless the young woman obtained a court waiver of this requirement. The law contains no exception for circumstances in which the delay would seriously threaten a young woman’s health. Instead the law forces physicians to delay emergency medical care until a young woman is facing imminent death.

“The main question in this case is how many women facing medical emergencies have to have their abortions delayed and health put at risk before the Court holds a law unconstitutional,” Dalven said. “As a matter of public health, clearly the answer is one woman is one woman too many.”

The state of New Hampshire argued before the lower court that the law in question should stand unless it put the health of all young women at risk. But even if only a few young women face medical emergencies and are harmed by this law, the law must have an exception to protect those young women, the ACLU said.

The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Concord Feminist Health Center, the Feminist Health Center of Portsmouth, and Wayne Goldner, M.D.

In November 2004, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a district court decision striking down the law, noting that the Act forces physicians to “gamble with their patients’ lives… [or] risk criminal and civil liability.”

The case is Planned Parenthood of Northern New England v. Ayotte, Case No. 04-1161. Lawyers on the case include Dalven and Corinne Schiff of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Dara Klassel of PPFA; Martin P. Honigberg of Sulloway & Hollis, PLLC; and Lawrence Vogelman, of Nixon Raiche Manning Vogelman & Leach, PA and Legal Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union.

To read the ACLU’s brief in opposition, please go to: /node/37018.

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