HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, May 23, 2005

Supreme Court Grants Cert. in Abortion Case

The Supreme Court this morning granted cert. in a 1st Circuit case that declared a New Hampshire parental-notification statute unconstitutional.  The case is Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, No. 04-1144.  The First Circuit's opinion is here.  According to the Associated Press story on the case, the case raises two issues: (1) whether a parental-notification statute must contain an explicit exception to protect the minor's health in the event of a medical emergency, and (2) what is the legal standard to be applied in assessing the constitutionality of a state abortion statute.  The First Circuit applied the "undue burden" standard announced by the plurality opinion in Casey.

Judicial nominations, a true blood sport in recent times, have become vicious in the past couple of months as the Senate debates changes in the Senate's rules and the possibility of a "nuclear option."  Much of the reason for the heat is ascribed to the expected announcement by Chief Justice Rehnquist of his retirement or resignation from the Court, as well as the politics of abortion.  With this grant, the latter just got a lot more immediate.  If the other shoe falls and the Chief announces his departure at the end of the Term, expect all hell to break loose. 

Update:  Here's some additional commentary from Scotusblog . . .

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide a long-unsettled issue of abortion law: the standard to be used in judging the constitutionality of a restriction on a women's right to end a pregnancy. The question is whether such a restriction is to be upheld if there is any circumstance in which it could be applied constitutionally. The Court for some time has not followed that approach in abortion cases, but has never explicitly repudiated it. The working standard the Court has applied is whether a restriction, as written, would put a burden on the abortion rights of a significant number of women.


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