New Hampshire Will Appeal Decision Striking Parental Notification Law
by Steven Ertelt
December 31, 2003
Concord, NH (LifeNews.com) — The state of New Hampshire is planning to appeal a recent decision striking down a parental notification law passed by the state legislature.
Attorney General Peter Heed said it was important that higher courts review the decision made by a federal judge declaring the law unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico ruled on Monday that the law was unconstitutional because it did not contain an exception to protect the "health" of a pregnant woman.
"Although the New Hampshire act includes an exception to the notification requirement when an abortion is necessary to prevent the death of a pregnant minor, it does not include an exception to protect her health short of fatality," DiClerico wrote. "Therefore, on its face, the act does not comply with the constitutional requirement that laws restricting a woman’s access to abortion must provide a health exception."
Courts have upheld similar laws in other states and, in 1990, the Supreme Court upheld a Minnesota notification statute. That law has the same medical emergency provision that is in the New Hampshire statute, though DiClerico did not mention the ruling in his decision.
The pro-life laws have been credited with reducing teen abortion rates by as much as 30 percent.
Gov. Craig Benson signed the notification bill into law and said he strongly supports defending it in court.
"It gives us an opportunity to push this up to a higher court, where more judges will rule on this, not just one single judge," Benson said.
Corinne Schiff, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, applauded the decision striking the law.
Pro-life groups and state lawmakers said the health exception is a pro-abortion loophole that allows all abortions to be included in the exception — rendering the notification law moot.
"We didn’t mistakenly forget to put in a health exception. We purposely crafted a bill without an exception," Rep. Fran Wendelboe told the Associated Press.
Roger Stenson, director of New Hampshire Citizens for Life, agreed.
"Abortion providers seek to broaden the medical emergency exception to such an extent that every single abortion would be considered a ‘health’ abortion. This makes any parental notice law ineffective," Stenson explained.
Pro-abortion groups sued the state to prevent the law from going into effect on January 1. Their lawsuit also claimed the judicial bypass section of the law was inadequate.
The Supreme Court has ruled that notification laws must have a bypass provision to protect teens who are victims of physical abuse by their parent or guardian. Pro-life groups say more should be done to address child abuse rather than authorizing abortions without notification.
Stenson said that "secret abortion on minors is child abuse."
"[T]he abortion industry in New Hampshire has elevated its desire for dead babies over the rights of every parent, the protection of all families, and especially the sacrosanctity of our vulnerable minor girls," Stenson added.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will review DiClerico’s decision. It has never before ruled on a notification bill from any of the states that belong to the circuit.
Stenson said his group is working with pro-life members of the state legislature to file an amicus brief supporting the Attorney General’s defense of the statute.
"We’ve connected specific Legislators, led by Rep. Phyllis Woods, Chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus in the Legislature, with an attorney who is a constitutional scholar and expert on abortion law," Stenson said.
The New Hampshire law was the first pro-life law passed since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.