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A little background on the New Hampshire abortion case

Today, the US Supreme Court will rule on the first abortion case to reach it since the partial-birth case of the 90's. And since it's a New Hampshire law that's being challenged, I felt obligated to offer a little background.

First, arguing the case is our Attorney General, Ms. Kelly Ayotte. Ms. Ayotte has a rather colorful background. She was the #2 person in the Attorney General's office (and quite content) when her predecessor, Peter Heed, got tangled up in a minor sexual-harassment scandal involving a judicial conference, and had to resign. Ms. Ayotte (who was pregnant at the time) became the state's first acting attorney general, then later the "acting" was removed when the governor nominated her and the state's executive council approved. That governor (a Republican) was defeated last November, but the succeeding Democratic governor asked her to stay on. So she has the distinction of being New Hampshire's first female acting AG, first female AG, and the first AG to take maternity leave.

That might have some bearing on her arguments in this case. The New Hampshire law being tested is one of parental notification. It states, simply, that no minor may have an abortion unless the parents are notified at least 48 hours in advance. They need not approve, but must be told. The sole exceptions are if a judge grants approval, or the mother's life is at risk.

The backers very carefully did not include "mother's health" as an exception. They said they had seen too many cases where "health" was extended to include "emotional" or "psychological" health, or other stretches that made the restrictions meaningless. They wanted to close up that loophole, and are asking the Supreme Court to give it their imprimatur.

Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire is -- no great surprise -- the opposing party. They say that the mother's health should be an overriding concern, and that it represents an unreasonable intrusion, as well as an assault on the Roe V. Wade precedent.

Either way, New Hampshire's legal system is getting its day in the sun. I think we'll do all right.

Related resources;
Kelly Ayotte biography

Planned Parenthood of NH v. Ayotte timeline

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2003/hb0763.html">Text of the law

State of New Hampshire's brief

Planned Parenthood's Brief

Update: Link to Planned Parenthood's brief corrected. Thanks, Denny.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A little background on the New Hampshire abortion case:

» Mazurland Blog linked with New Hampshire In The News

» Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Abortion-notification case could test changing court

» The Wisdom of Change linked with More on the parental notification law

Comments (26)

Isn't the health of a minor... (Below threshold)

Isn't the health of a minor the responsibility of the guardian, who very likely sponsors health insurance for the child?
If there were a "life and death" situation" shouldn't the child's guardian be notified, regardless of the medical procedure being done?
If the child's health is truly at risk, don't they belong in a hospital, not an abortion clinic?

Incidentally, saying that Peter Heed got tangled up in a minor sexual-harassment scandal involving a judicial conference, and had to resign" is not quite accurate.
Peter was falsely accused, and being a stand-up guy, chose not to drag the State of NH through it.

LJD: Can we have more infor... (Below threshold)
Frank H:

LJD: Can we have more information on this false accusation? Inquiring minds want to know... :-)

Jay,Your link to t... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:


Your link to the Planned Parenthood brief leads to the State's brief.

Not to distract from the or... (Below threshold)

Not to distract from the orignal post...

AP June 23, 2004:
"Heed has denied doing anything wrong and said when he resigned he did so protect the integrity of the office. "There was nothing going on on that dance floor that you don't see at any wedding reception. Like the stupid, silly conga line," he said in describing the incident."

More on the story here:


I've met Peter on a few occasions. He irespectable man and upstanding member of our community. Any one who thinks being grabbed at the waist is harassment, doesn't belong in a conga line (and likely needs some therapy). He is the truly the victim here.

Ya I agree, I think Heed go... (Below threshold)

Ya I agree, I think Heed got boned on that deal --

LJD has an excellent point. If a minor walked into any health clinic or hospital and requested a procedure, wouldn't rhe hospital be required to notify the guardian, since the child is not legally competent to consent to surgery/medical procedure?

Or do we trust PP on our behalf to say that abortion is the ONE medical procedure where health care providers are free to scrape away without risk?

What a revolting argument.

Good points all in your ori... (Below threshold)

Good points all in your original comment LJD.

I am also baffled at how Planned Parenthood can conduct "medical procedures" on a minor without parental approval. Why is abortion the only sacrosanct medical procedure in this country? Any other type of doctor would need the parents' permission to do anything to the minor child.

This whole fight is ridiculous. Look at abortions performed on minors in light of all other medical procedures for minors and you see it is one incredibly glaring anomaly. I would like people supporting Planned Parenthood's position to explain why a doctor may not peform an appendectomy on a minor without informing her parents and getting their consent, but can perform an abortion without doing either. Substitute any medical procedure (including school nurse's doling out aspirin) and compare to abortion and you see how completely ludicrous this whole thing is.

Ignore the fight over abortion itself. This has to do with groups like Planned Parenthood taking parenting away from parents. Nobody should stand for that.

This is a question of intim... (Below threshold)
Brian L:

This is a question of intimidation and restricting a woman’s access to a first trimester abortion not about parental rights. Like the failed ’92 Pennsylvania law requiring spousal notification, the New Hampshire notification law is just that, notification not consent. Therefore, it is not necessary and is just an attempt to intimidate a girl from getting an abortion or delaying her decision past the 1st trimester.

Comparing this, as I’ve heard in some blogs, to needing permission to get your ears pierced when you’re a minor, is ridiculous. When a minor becomes pregnant she becomes a legal adult when it comes to the health or well being of the fetus. The parents cannot make health choices for the fetus; it’s not there legal responsibility. This is why the Law is written as notification not consent.

It is praying on the fears of some girls who wait to tell there parents about a pregnancy, until its too late, which I believe is what the law is designed to do. Most girls, in a good home environment, tell their parents in a resonable time that they are in that kind of situation (even before a decision is made). Only girls who have a bad home environment, or for whatever reason believe they can’t even go to a clinic for a check-up to see how far along they are so they will wait until there is no choice, will be affected by this Law.

This is not about "restrict... (Below threshold)

This is not about "restricting a woman’s access to a first trimester abortion". We're talking about GIRLS, not women.

"When a minor becomes pregnant she becomes a legal adult when it comes to the health or well being of the fetus"
When it comes to THEIR health and well-being, they are a minor and their parents are responsible.

Either way it's a win win s... (Below threshold)

Either way it's a win win situation in my eyes. And I am talking about the abortion issue in general. Clothes hanger makers gotta put food on their families too.

So, Brian, let me get this ... (Below threshold)

So, Brian, let me get this straight... if my 14 year old daughter gets pregnant, I have no right to know?
Please explaun to me why this should be so

SCSIwuzzy:If your ... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:


If your daughter trusts you, she will tell you--and she should. If she does not, who is the State to step in and force a parent/daughter communication? --while thereby effectively depriving the pregnant woman of her "right to choose" based on her age?


"We're talking about GIRLS, not women."

Huh? A 17-year-old is a "girl," but an 18-year-old is a "woman?"

Look, if the uterus can carry a fetus to term, that uterus is in a woman. And, the uterus bearer is granted full decision-making authority and responsibility for whatever comes out of that uterus, regardless of her age. Furthermore, the states recognize that the uterus bearer also has full authority and responsibility to empty her uterus during the first trimester, since parental consent is not required. So please tell me how the requirement of parental notification is consistent with any of this? It is not at all.

Earlier I said "right to ch... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:

Earlier I said "right to choose," when I meant to say "right to choose a safe, legal, abortion instead of a back alley coathanger or, choose to have her boyfriend pummel her abdomen until the job is done."

Girls of all ages in this country have a "right" to obtain safe legal abortions, and their parents have no legal rights to stop them.

Some parents feel they have "rights" to know everything about their minor children, but most have less than they realize (ever try to obtain medical records or counseling or psych records?--how about your kid's IRS records?). Parental "rights to know" are fairly limited, depending on the subject matter.

Parental "rights to know" obviously conflict with the woman's "right to choose." After all, it is not unheard of for women to sneak illegal abortions or perform self abuse to secretly end unwanted pregnancies.

Some parents feel their "right to know" is more important than their daughter's "right to choose." In my opinion, the attitudes of those parents are not well supported by the historical development of law in the area (recent parental notice statutes notwithstanding). Furthermore, I feel those parents need to focus more on their kids' well-being rather than worrying about what they wrongly perceive as an errosion of their own rights. After all, aren't the kids' best interests always more important than the parents'?

As a parent of five girls I... (Below threshold)

As a parent of five girls I do not need a law to force my daughters to inform me of an impending abortion. They will, and have, told me themselves. It is the young women who lack warm, loving and supportive parents who need to be protected and this law is placing them square in line with abuse and humiliation. In a perfect world all young women would have warm, loving, supportive parents and have good relations that would allow them to feel free to inform them of their condition and even ask for advice. We do not live in a perfect world. We need to protect those who would be placed in harms way by forcing parents who are not supportive, understanding, warm, concerned,, and caring, to be informed of an impending abortion. What is the point if it is only about "notification" and not "permission"? That is about as silly a thing as I can think of. Any young woman who has a close relationship with her parents would tell them of her situation. It is those who don't who despertly need to keep their condition from the parents. I agree with the post that said basically this same thing. Lets put the welfare of the pregnant teen above the so called rights of parents who obviously are more concerned with their own "rights" than the welfare of their daughters. The goverment has no place in a private relationship between a young woman and her parents.

I believe that the "right t... (Below threshold)

I believe that the "right to choose" is a big load of horse crap, so maybe I should stay out of this one.

SilverBubble:I'm n... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:


I'm not sure I disagree with you, and that's why I put quotes around the term. However, the law of the land holds that all women have a "right to choose," and its been that way for more than 30 years. The debate here is not whether to overturn Roe, or whether states should or should not permit abortions in the absence of Roe.

So make the leap, adopt first trimester abortions as a constitutional right, and work from there. Given all that "horse crap," what do you feel about parental notification?

"Planned Parenthood of New ... (Below threshold)
Bat One:

"Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire is -- no great surprise -- the opposing party. They say that the mother's health should be an overriding concern, and that it represents an unreasonable intrusion, as well as an assault on the Roe V. Wade precedent."

I wonder if the baby... er, fetus... er, tissue mass, might regard the abortion as an unreasonable intrusion, as well as an assualt.

So Brian, the only reason m... (Below threshold)

So Brian, the only reason my daughter may not tell me she is pregnant is because of a lack of trust? Not maybe pressure from the baby's father, or peer pressure, or any other factor? Like maybe excessivley pro-aborton folks she may meet out in this big broad world...
In the same society that won't let a child carry tylenol to take themselves at a school water fountain, I have no right to know someone is going to perform a surgical procedure on my child. The child that I am responsible for. She cannot get a tattoo without my permision, but she can have a doctor poke around in he womb without my knowledge. Good to know.
Now, if she developes a complication, like deep depression or an infection, I'll certainly know about that. And have to pay for it.
But, I must be a bad parent if she didn't tell me, so maybe I deserve that, huh?
Now, notice the age I mentioned, and the one you chose to mention. 14. The is below the age of consent in all the states I am familiar with. IF she is having sex, legally, it may very well be rape by definition. But, in your world, I have no right to know that she's been seduced or taken in by her gym teacher, youth group leader or her lab partner. And if she thinks she loves such a dirt bag (as a teacher or other adult), she may think she is protecting him by aborting the child. She'd be right, in that. I would make it my life's work to destroy that man's life. But at 14, if she isn't considered mature enough to make informed decisions about having sex period, how can she make informed choices about aborting a baby? What other surgical procedure out there cana 14 year old recieve without telling her parent/guardian?
Your example, of a 17 year old, however is a girl over the age of consent, again in ever state I can think of. I'd agree with you, that a 17 year old may have the maturity to make such a choice.
Now, the law allows a judge to hear a case, and allow the abortion to happen. I would imagine that any household with a history of substance abuse or violence, would be a rubber stamp.

Interesting that so many he... (Below threshold)

Interesting that so many here think they know their kids so well, and that this only applies to underprivileged ones. I hope you're right or you're in for a rude awakening.

To qualify, I am hardly a pro-lifer, but the justificaitons listed here are ridiculous. Most based on assumptions and hypotheticals.

How can a child secretly getting an abortion, in any way relate to her health or welfare? Will she not have "welfare" if she tells her parents?

This stuff about being a woman simply because she has conceived is crap also. A 16 or 17 year old girl has little chance of success in raising a child by herself. If she doesn;t have adequate shelter/food/clothing, who will child welfare go after- the teenageer, or the adult, legallly responsible parents?

SCSIwuzzy:You had ... (Below threshold)
Brian L:


You had a lot of questions for me, and we can go back and forth with endless scenarios and what-ifs which, I don’t want to do. With any Law you can find situations in which it doesn’t fit, that is what judges are for. This discussion needs to be more general, in my previous post I was trying to get at the motive of the Law (to restrict and/or delay abortions), not pick out a specific case (fyi It wasn’t I who discussed a 17 y.o. right to chose, but someone’s post just below mine).

So I just want to make a couple points:

You keep talking about other surgical procedures, it these cases you need to consent to the procedure, actually sign a piece of paper allowing the doctor perform it. This law will not give you the right to block your child’s access to an abortion (you don’t have to drive her there, hold her hand, or pay for it; you just can’t legally stop it).

As for the age issue; may the Law should have been written as bellow the age of 14 or whatever, but it wasn’t, it says minor. May be a better Law states that someone under say 16 needs to talk to a rape counselor before an abortion. If a child can’t or won’t talk to a parent about sex, the pressures of sex, rape, or incest; then maybe a professional is the best way to go. Planed Parenthood is not just an abortion clinic; they have a whole range of reproduction and sex education information and counseling.

And just to let people now where I stand, I do not work for Planed Parenthood; I do not support or give money to any pro-abortion groups. I also do not believe that abortion is always the best solution, and I get upset when its used as a form of birth control (excluding the morning after pill which is a whole other thread), and personally wouldn’t want anyone I love to get one unless it was under some sort of extreme circumstance, but I just can’t make that decision for them.

Thanks to all for the informed and level headed debate

Some of you say a lot of st... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:

Some of you say a lot of stuff that doesn't advance the debate.

Look, here's the state of the law today:

1. Pregnant woman of any age have full autonomy to seek and choose pre-natal care without parental involvement.

2. Pregnant woman of any age have full autonomy to obtain an abortion during their first trimester without parental consent.

3. Mothers of any age have full autonomy and responsibility to raise their children without the advice or consent of the child's grandparents.

Ok, do you get it? This is the general state of the law, barring some exceptions that are not relevant here. This is the state of the law regardless of whether you feel a 16-year-old is qualified to raise a baby or whether you feel abortions are good or bad.

Now you want to add a new law in New Hampshire that requires pregnant women to tell their parents something they don't want to disclose. Why? What's the point? Is the daughter likely to value the advice of parents she doesn't even trust enough to inform of the pregnancy? Moreover, if your advice is to have the abortion, you've added nothing to her decision. This requirement only makes a difference in those situations with insensitive, rigid or abusive parents who will disown their "sinful" daughter, or those who will abuse their position and outright forbid her from exercising her "constitutional right" to empty her uterus. Is that what you want? If so, it certainly is inconsistent with the principles behind the state of the law concerning minor womens' autonomy over their uteruses and babies.

Comments about peer pressure are pretty silly. While putative fathers may influence women to seek abortions, I doubt "peer pressure" plays any role at all. Really, it's hard to imagine kids gathering around and chanting "abort! abort! abort!" as though they're encouraging her to take a bong hit or something.

Also, the ear piercing examples are silly. Piercings and tattoos are often obtained with only superficial thought, and often as a result of peer pressure. That is why there are parental consent laws in effect, to encourage some sober reflection. On the other hand, abortions are usually obtained after weeks of sleepless nights of agonizing reflection. Thus, the reliability of the decision making process is more secure in the latter, and the dangers of frivolous whims ruling the day are less likely.

But, in any event, parental consent laws do exist for piercings and tattoos. Conversely, the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution guarantees every woman the right to choose an abortion (without parental consent). That automatically places the two in vastly different analytical frameworks, so the comparison is like apples and oranges.

The arguments about rape are silly, too. If a statutory rape does not result in a pregnancy, then your daughter would have no reason to tell you if she didn't want to. Must that automatically change because she got knocked up?

Oh, and don't think the law deprives 14-year-olds of the capacity to make informed consent for sex. Fourteen-year-olds can do it with other 14-year-olds with impunity, I think.

I haven't read any briefs on these issues (yet), so this may have been dealt with. But I'm surprised nobody here has argued that parental notification would remove the incentive to have abortions for the *sole* purpose of avoiding shame in the eyes of their parents. Once the parents are informed, then she has nothing to hide and she can make the decision based on whether she is ready and willing to raise a child. That is probably a much better criterion than concerns about parental scorn. Of course, she could always circumvent this by the third option of illegal or self-induced abortions. Still, it might be a good argument in favor of notification.

So, what is wrong with info... (Below threshold)

So, what is wrong with informing the parents that their child is having an abortion?
Again, what surgical procedure could my daughter have without my consent? But for this one, you advocate that I can't even be made aware of it?
Denny, I hope you never have daughters, or if they do, they don't take their cues from your current worldview.

Scuzzywuzzy,I have... (Below threshold)
Denny Crane:


I have two daughters and two step daughters. If they become pregnant and seek abortions as minors, I certainly want to know about it--even if they're not minors. But what I *want* is inconsistent with current law, and the principles underlying that.

As for my current world view, you have no idea what that is. I'm simply telling you what the law governing women and the contents of their uterus is, and why parental notification is inconsistent with that. We lawyers tend to like logical consistency in the threads springing from the underlying principles to the laws as enacted. We don't always achieve that, but we do strive for it.

As for "you advocate that I can't even be made aware of it?" That's not what I said at all. I said the government has no business FORCING the communication! I hope that you WOULD be made aware of it voluntarily by your daughter. There is nothing wrong with your being informed, unless your daughter has reasons to keep it from you. SHE is the queen of her uterus, its contents, and all information concerning that. This is not about her appendix.

I think a number of people ... (Below threshold)

I think a number of people are missing the point, and it's a doozy.

This is a NOTIFICATION law. It requires no consent from the parents, and nothing more than for the doctor to either receive a court order or inform the parents 48 hours before the abortion.

It is intended to do one thing - Scare teenagers.

Leaving out, for now, the question of adulthood, which I personally feel is a crock (for reference, I'm in my mid-20's and have supported myself on my own with no nearby family since I was in my late teens), and looking at only the substance of the law, we find inconsistancies. For one, privacy. Laws regulating medical ethics prohibit doctors from telling a parent what they are treating their child for if they request. You know, the whole confidentiality thing? That cool little set of laws that protects patients and lets them feel comfortable with their doctor, and thereby receive the treatment they need. Nifty little thing.

Another point is the one I made above, about notification vs consent - If it is an issue of consent for a surgical procedure, that's one thing. It can be listed as a procedure, and the details kept private. However, since it is simply a matter of notification and specified for abortions only, there is another issue coming into play here, and it's a political one.

Politics should never dictate medicine. The topic of abortion itself is a political one, but the logistics surrounding it are purely medical and need to be treated as such. Requiring notification of anyone, whether it be spouse, father, parents, or cat, is ethically wrong and something that will end up creating a generation of New Hampshire teens who are either dead, infertile, or getting their asses kicked by their parents.

If a teen has a good relationship with her parents and is able to talk to them about the situation she's in, great. Guess what. That's not the majority of teenage girls. They will go to any length to avoid communicating with their parents.

The inconsistancies present in this law are outrageous and not highlighted nearly often enough.

Denny,If the govt ha... (Below threshold)

If the govt has no right to force the communication of a surgical procedure like abortion, than what right do they have to force communication or consent about any of the following, between minors and their guardians:
school fieldtrips
OTC medication
emergency room visits
tattoo or piercings
driving permit
marriage (if below 18)
military service (again, if below 18 but out of school)
Cosmetic surgery
Teeth whitening/cleaning

All of these things require that the guardians be involved. Why is abortion excluded? I can accept the notion that the guardians/parents can be kept out of the choice, but why can they not even be told? Where is the consistency in that? I always hear the arguement that involves the scary ogre of a father... is this really the rule, not the exception?
For your point about a womans uterus... that is true for WOMEN. An unemancipated minor is not a woman. And a girl below tha age of consent is most definitely not a woman. Keeping surgical procedures private based on an implied right to privacy is well and good, for ADULTS. A child living under a parents roof (and a parent legally responsible for that childs welfare, health and safety) does not have the same privacy rights of an adult.

And Kat, what other surgical procedures do you think a minor should be allowed to have without a guardians consent? If all purely medical choices should be decided without a parent's involvement, what are the implications of this? If a complication comes out the abortion, like infection or permanant damagae (not unheard of, in either case), is the parent not liable for that childs care? I know that if my child has an abortion (notice, now, that I never said if I was against abortions), I'd be checking on her for months to make sure that she made it through the process mentally and physically OK. But a child that chose to hide the abortion, is also likely to hide the complications that may arise. By the time a parent finds out, the problem is likely to be far more serious than if it was spotted and treated right away.
You say this about scaring teenagers. I say it is about taking parents out of their daughters' lives, while leaving them with all of the responsibilities (legal and moral) of being a parent.
I never feared my parents (much :) ), but doesn't mean I was eager to tell them about all of my screw ups. And knocking a baseball into the neighbors living room is a hell of alot less serious than having an unwanted child. Now, if the law was REALLY about scaring teenagers, it would require that the girl disclose the identity of the father, and that notification be sent to him (or his parents if a minor) as well. And in the case of an adult fathering a child with a minor, notice sent to the local police and DA. Now that is a law designed to scare some one out of going to a clinic/hospital.

Again, the NH law is about notification, and has an "out" for those children that think there are dire repercussions if they inform their parents.

Abortion rights activists used to bring up back alley abortions, hidden from the light of day. While the location has moved out of the alley and into a (hopefully) sterile surgical suite, some still want it hidden away.

What is the distinction bet... (Below threshold)

What is the distinction between a girl and a woman?


The ability to bear children?

Until the early 20th century, it was the latter. If a woman was able to bear children, she was an adult, and expected to act like one. We have sublimated teenagers so that they are expected to be children (albeit mature, intelligent, advanced children) until they magically turn 18, then suddenly they are considered to be "adult". There is no reason for 18, it is a random age that has no bearing on the actual physical, mental, or emotional development of the person. Why not say 25, when men are finished maturing? How about 40? Or 16? Or 12? Each of these are various milestones in development, which 18 is not.

I didn't mean to turn this into a discussion on age, although it is the central point in the topic at hand.

It's great that you have such a good relationship with your kids.

I had a terrible relationship with my mom when I was a teenager. If I had become pregnant, I would have aborted without telling her, even if it had meant using an illegal method (ID fraud, back-room abortion, etc).

You ask what other surgical methods a teen should be able to have without a parent's consent. I say any of them. Give teens control over their own lives and watch them flourish.

St Jude's Children's Hospital is in the middle of a study where they are giving patients as young as eight control over their end-of-life decisions. The parents are allowed to advise, but in the end, it is the child's decision. The kids involved are choosing experimental procedures so as to help someone in the future even if it doesn't help the child now.

They are seeing remarkable maturity and responsibility from these kids. If you give them the right information and ability to make their own decisions, they behave like adults.

Amazing, isn't it? That kids are PEOPLE?! *gasp* I'm so shocked.

My daughter delivered a bab... (Below threshold)

My daughter delivered a baby boy 7 months ago. She was 15 when she got pregnant. She told planned parenthood to kiss her b--- because of how I raised her. She came to me. I thought that rather funny. When my best friend and I got pregnant at 15 planned parenthood pushed abortion. Telling us things like you are so young and your body is not ready you could die in delivery. Funny we found out the story was the same years later. This is not a choice teenagers should be making. Sheesh, they cannot even make simple obvious decesions much less one that will affect the rest of their lives. I for years cried after 8 miscarriages and blammed each one on the abortion I felt I was forced into by an uncaring self serving entity without rules as other health care workers must adhear too. I wish I could have sued them at age 18, but I could not. I now have 6 children , would have been seven, will be forever in my heart, always wondering what could have been. Thankfully my daughter will never suffer that hurt...It really bites.






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