Planned Parenthood and ACLU Ask Supreme Court to Protect Women's Health in First Abortion Case Before the Roberts Court

November 30, 2005 12:00 am

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In Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England et al., the Court will consider whether abortion restrictions must include protections for women’s health and whether courts can strike down dangerous restrictions that doctors say will harm their patients

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) today urged the U.S. Supreme Court in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, et al. to protect women’s health and the ability to stop anti-abortion laws that doctors believe will harm their patients.



“If the Court accepts the government’s arguments in this case, it will give a green light to states to pass abortion restrictions that will harm women’s health in medical emergencies,” said Jennifer Dalven, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, and the attorney who argued before the Court today. “We are hopeful that the Court will recognize the importance of protecting women’s health and access to safe, legal abortion and rule in our favor.”

The case began as a challenge to a New Hampshire law that prevents doctors from performing an abortion for a teenager under the age of 18 until 48 hours after a parent has been notified. Contrary to 30 years of Supreme Court precedent, the law contains no medical emergency exception to protect a pregnant teenager’s health. The lower courts struck down the law because of this omission.

Karen Pearl, interim president of PPFA, warned of the potential repercussions that this case could have on women’s health. “The government is actually urging the Supreme Court to take the dangerous step of forbidding doctors from putting their patient’s health first,” Pearl said. “Government should not be the judge of when doctors can and cannot treat their patients.”

The groups warned that a decision in Ayotte could reach far beyond New Hampshire, effectively eliminating — for both teens and adults — the requirement that abortion laws must include protections for women’s health.

New Hampshire abortion clinics and providers who brought the legal challenge are Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Concord Feminist Health Center, the Feminist Health Center of Portsmouth, and Wayne Goldner, M.D.

Attorneys for the respondents include Dalven, Steven R. Shapiro, Louise Melling, Talcott Camp, Corinne Schiff, Brigitte Amiri, and Diana Kasdan of the ACLU; Dara Klassel of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; 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.

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Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider. We believe that everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved. Planned Parenthood affiliates operate more than 850 health centers nationwide, providing medical services and sexuality education for millions of women, men, and teenagers each year. We also work with allies worldwide to ensure that all women and men have the right and the means to meet their sexual and reproductive health care needs.

The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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