Supreme Court Ruling in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood Recognizes Protections for Women's Health and Safety

January 18, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) welcomed today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, et al, which unanimously recognized its precedent that abortion laws must protect women’s health and safety.

“Today’s decision tells politicians that they cannot jeopardize women’s health when they pass abortion laws,” said Jennifer Dalven, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, and the attorney who argued Ayotte before the Court.

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 contained no medical emergency exception to protect a pregnant teenager’s health. The lower courts struck down the law because of this omission.

“We are relieved that the Supreme Court left in place protections for women’s health and safety in abortion laws,” said PPFA Interim President Karen Pearl. “We continue to believe that the law should be struck down by the lower court.”

The Supreme Court asked the lower court to consider whether the New Hampshire legislature would have wanted this law with a medical emergency exception. If not, the Court said the law should be struck down in its entirety.

“The New Hampshire legislature intentionally omitted a medical emergency exception when it passed this law,” Dalven said. “We continue to believe that the lower court will recognize this and strike down the law in its entirety.”

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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