Supreme Court Sharply Questions New Hampshire Official in Abortion Case

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Supreme Court Sharply Questions New Hampshire Official in Abortion Case Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 30, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Supreme Court justices wasted little time before sharply questioning New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte about why she believed it should uphold a law in her state requiring parents to be notified about an abortion on their minor daughter.

Justice David Souter, who backs abortion, went right to the heart of the arguments made by abortion advocates and asked Ayotte how the statute would affect teens in dire health situations.

Ayotte said another New Hampshire law and policies drafted by her office would make sure abortion practitioners were not prosecuted in cases when they thought an abortion was in the best health interests of the girl.

Breyer thought that answer wasn’t good enough.

"How do we know that’s the law?” asked Breyer. "There are people of good faith on both sides of this argument” who may disagree on the law and how to enforce it.

Ayotte also pointed out that a judicial bypass provision in the law is available for emergency health cases, even thought abortions are generally not needed to protect the health of a woman and are often detrimental.

Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, also abortion supporters, asked Ayotte about how abortion practitioners would avoid be prosecuted or sued if they felt a girl’s parents shouldn’t be notified and a judge wasn’t available for a judicial bypass.

Kennedy’s concerns are a key to the outcome of the case because he voted with the minority in 2000 when the Supreme Court overturned a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortions. Kennedy sided with Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas who said a health exception was unnecessary.

The eventual ruling in the case is significant because it could not only impact the Hew Hampshire law but affect parental involvement statues, health exceptions in general, and how the high court handles cases regarding abortion limits.

The case is Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, 04-1144.