New Hampshire Defends Parental Notification Law From Attack

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 7, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Hampshire Defends Parental Notification Law From Attack

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
December 7, 2003

Concord, NH ( — New Hampshire’s Attorney General’s office is defending a law requiring that parents be notified when teenagers seek abortions.

Associate Attorney General Dan Mullen argues that the law is constitutional, even though it does not contain an exception in cases in which a mother’s health is allegedly at risk. Mullen notes that two other state laws exist which "allow medical
providers to provide medical treatment to minors in the case of an emergency."

Mullen stated his argument in a response to a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and other pro-abortion groups. Planned Parenthood claims the parental notification law is unconstitutional, even though similar laws are in place in numerous other states.

The New Hampshire law will only permit an abortion without notification if the girl is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, or her life is at risk.

The state legislature passed the law last spring. The measure also has the enthusiastic support of Governor Craig Benson.

Planned Parenthood wants a federal judge to prevent the law from going into effect December 31 until he can rule in the case.

But Mullen argues quite strongly that a health exception is unnecessary. He notes that one current state law protects a licensed medical care provider or health professional from a lawsuit if he or she fails to obtain consent for medical services.

A second law states that "a licensed physician or a person acting under his direction or an advanced registered nurse practitioner working for the department of corrections may use force" to administer treatment.

While neither law speaks of abortion per se, Mullen says they are applicable in this case.

"These two statutes, when read with the Parental Notification Act, authorize a physician to provide medical treatment to a pregnant minor in the case of a medical emergency," Mullen wrote in his 11-page brief.

"Because of this, the New Hampshire Parental Notification Act does not infringe on the ability of pregnant women to protect their health."

Mullen also notes that the parental notification law contains a judicial bypass provision that eliminates the need for notice if a judge gives the O.K. According to Mullen, judicial bypass is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The Act provides that the judicial bypass procedure is to occur promptly, and there is nothing in the Act which would prevent it from proceeding even more promptly," Mullen said. "In the case of a medical emergency, access to a judge is probably not more than one or two hours away if necessary."

Under the New Hampshire parental notification law, one parent must be notified at least 48 hours before a girl 17 or younger obtains an abortion. Pro-life leaders say it is the first pro-life law to be enacted in New Hampshire since Roe v. Wade,
the U.S. Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide.

New Hampshire Citizens for Life hails the law as a breakthrough for family communication.

"The broadest way to appreciate this law is in the context of the integrity of the family," said the Executive Director of Citizens for Life, Roger Stenson.

"This law removes abortion providers as agents of government interference between our daughters and their parents. It allows and facilitates communication between children and their mothers and fathers that had been co-opted by a public policy of secret abortion on minors," Stenson added.

"First, our daughters can benefit from the counsel of their own parents; deep down, this law is about helping young girls in a crisis. Secondly, the rights of parents to raise their own children are restored," Stenson continued.

"The pro-life aspect of this law is that abortions will decrease, which everybody claims to be a good thing."

Planned Parenthood is expected to issue its response to the filing by the Attorney General’s office by Wednesday. The case is being heard by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph DiClerico, Jr.