Supreme Court: Court shouldn't have thrown baby out with bathwater (pardon the metaphor)
Just because New Hampshire's parental notification law "may be applied in a manner that harms women's health" doesn't mean it's all bad and should be thrown out entirely, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today.
The decision, written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was short and unanimous. That in itself is shocking, given the justices' significant differences on abortion issues.
But the Court's ruling is significant in other ways, too. The justices unanimously agreed that "states unquestionably have the right to require parental involvement when a minor considers terminating her pregnancy, because of their 'strong and legitimate interest in the welfare of [their] young citizens, whose immaturity, inexperience, and lack of judgment may sometimes impair their ability to exercise their rights wisely.'"
They also unanimously agreed that a state may not restrict access to abortions that are "necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for preservation of the life or health of the mother," and that "in some very small percentage of cases, pregnant minors, like adult women, need immediate abortions to avert serious and often irreversible damage to their health."
New Hampshire officials argued that the state law and other state regulations allowed for those immediate abortions. Lower courts disagreed and threw out the state's 2003 Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act.
That's where the courts went wrong, the Supreme Court said. "Generally speaking, when confronting a constitutional flaw in a statute, we try to limit the solution to the problem," O'Connor wrote. "We prefer, for example, to enjoin only the unconstitutional applications of a statute ...1
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