Tuesday, February 13, 2007
New Hampshire Governor Endorses Bill to Repeal Parental Notice Law
Governor Lynch of New Hampshire has said that he would sign legislation, introduced in the N.H. House of Representatives, that would repeal the state's parental notification law. That law was the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood. In Ayotte, the federal district court had invalidated the parental notice law because it lacked a health exception, and the First Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Roberts newly on the Court, issued a unanimous opinion (by Justice O'Connor) confirming the need for a health exception, but remanding the case to the lower courts and suggesting that a narrower ruling might be more appropriate than the facial invalidation issued by the district court. Justice O'Connor wrote:
Here, the courts below chose the most blunt remedy–permanently enjoining the Act’s enforcement and thereby invalidating it entirely. They need not have done so. In Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914–where this Court invalidated Nevada’s “partial birth abortion” law in its entirety for lacking a health exception–the parties did not ask for, and this Court did not contemplate, relief more finely drawn, but here New Hampshire asked for and respondents recognized the possibility of a more modest remedy. Only a few applications of the Act would present a constitutional problem. So long as they are faithful to legislative intent, then, in this case the lower courts can issue a declaratory judgment and an injunction prohibiting the Act’s unconstitutional application. On remand, they should determine in the first instance whether the legislature intended the statute to be susceptible to such a remedy.
The opinion thus called into question whether challenges to abortion restrictions would continue, as in the past, to lead to facial invalidations, or whether instead courts would read Ayotte to call for more limited, as-applied relief. The lower courts' decision on remand might have been telling; if the bill to repeal New Hampshire's law passes, the case will be moot. That, however, will be good news for teenagers in New Hampshire.
Read the story in the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Report. Read more about the case on remand in the Concord Monitor. Read more about Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood.