New Hampshire House Passes Parental Notification Abortion Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 16, 2011   |   3:39PM   |   Concord, NH

The New Hampshire House today approved a bill to allow parents to know when their minor daughters are considering an abortion so they can help them find better solutions and alternatives.

Without such a law in place, parents would have to pick up the pieces after their daughter has an abortion and potentially be required to pay for medical bills related to problems afterwards without knowing about the abortion in the first place.

The sponsors of the legislation say the bill is designed to respond to problems a court identified that made it unconstitutional, although the Supreme Court later came back and upheld the law. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld states’ rights to require parental involvement in 2006 when it held hearings on the New Hampshire law that abortion advocates took to the high court in a legal challenge after it became state law.

“States unquestionably have the right to require parental involvement when a minor considers terminating her pregnancy,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote.

But, in 2007, Governor John Lynch signed a bill that officially repealed New Hampshire’s parental notification law. The notification statue, originally passed by the legislature in 2003, had never been enforced. Earlier decisions by lower courts found the law unconstitutional but the high court ruled that parts of the law that should be voided could be taken out and the rest of the law could remain intact.

The key objection Lynch and abortion advocates had with the notification law was its lack of a health exception, saying parents shouldn’t be told when their daughter supposedly needs an abortion in a problematic health situation, even though research shows abortions cause mental health problems for women.

The new bill, HB 329, passed 256 to 102 and it would require that the parents or guardians of a minor girl be notified 48 hours before she can have an abortion. The bill also provides for a judicial bypass, as mandated by the Supreme Court, in the very rare instances where a girl may be subjected to physical violence as a result of sharing her pregnancy with her parents.

According to the Union Leader, Rep. Kathy Souza, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said it should clear constitutional scrutiny.

“We have before you a bill we are confident will stand the test,” said Souza. “It is time for parents of this state to assert their proper roles, to watch out for, to care for, to protect and to stand by their minor children.”

“I beg you. Do not keep parents out of their children’s lives any longer,” she said.

During the debate, Rep. Robert Guida, a Republican, argued for the bill while Rep. Lucy Weber, a Democrat, and Reps. Neal Kurk and Kyle Tasker, Republicans, argued against it.

Some 43 states have parental notification or consent measures in place, and they have proven effective in reducing abortions.