The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in a case that will determine whether a state can require parental notification before an abortion is performed on a minor, without providing a health exception.
Supporters of the law, which requires notification 48 hours before the procedure, argue the case is about parent rights, while abortion-rights advocates contend it could undermine key components of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that nullified state laws banning abortion.
In Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, New Hampshire’s attorney general contends a health exception is not needed because the law allows a minor to go to a judge instead of a parent if her health is in danger.
Opponents say that requirement could lead to life-threatening delays and puts medical decisions in the hands of judges.
The 2003 law was struck down before it was to go into effect, because it didn’t provide the health exception. Opponents argue a health exception can be so broadly interpreted that the law is rendered ineffective.
A backer of the law, Eileen Roberts, founder and president of Mothers and Advocates for Mothers Alone, says parents are “being excluded from their daughter’s life and death decision and finding out after the fact that their daughter has undergone an abortion.”
Ironically, says Roberts, if a minor suffers injury during an abortion, a parent is called to an emergency room to sign consent forms.
Practically, she says, children don’t know their complete medical history, which is needed to perform any type of surgery.
“To add insult to injury, parents are totally responsible for any follow-up care from abortion malpractice,” said Roberts, who had that experience herself, with a 14-year-old daughter.
Responding to a common criticism of parental notification laws, she said, “Although there are horrible cases of girls who are from abused homes, giving these girls from abused homes secret abortions and send them back home to the abuser is illegal in this country and the abuse needs to be reported to the authorities, to obtain counseling for this child and her family.”
Roberts maintains the high-court case is not about abortion rights.
A parental notification law, she contends, “does not take away a women’s right to an abortion, it simply protects our daughters from the harms of surgery, just as it does for an appendectomy and ear piercing.”
Roberts points out that just 32 states have parental notification laws while nearly 200,000 girls under the age of 18 have abortions each year in the U.S.
Roberts testified in 2002 in the trial of Planned Parenthood v. Alaska, which challenged the constitutionality of Alaska’s Parental Consent Law, passed six years ago.