Should New Hampshire require parental notification of a minor's abortion?
By: LFDA Editor
As of January 2012, after an override of then-Gov. John Lynch's veto, New Hampshire began requiring that at least one parent receive 48 hours’ notice before a minor receives an abortion.
HB 329, filed by Republican state Rep. Kathy Souza of Manchester, was designed to “to further the important and compelling state interests of protecting minors against their own immaturity, fostering the family structure and preserving it as a viable social unit, and protecting the rights of parents to rear children who are members of their household.”
The law allows for a medical emergency exemption from notice if the girl’s life is in danger or an essential bodily function is at risk.
A GOP-led Legislature had passed a notification bill in 2003 with the support of then-Gov. Craig Benson, a fellow Republican. The law, which did not include an exception clause, was challenged in court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled an exception for medical emergencies had to be included. It was ultimately repealed by the Democratic majority in 2007.
In supporting the parental notification law, then-House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt said: “This is not a debate about a social issue. One of the problems facing society today is the lack of parental involvement on many levels.
"Young girls who cannot so much as be given an aspirin by the school nurse without parental permission must have their parents involved in such a crucial medical procedure, especially when it involves the long term physical and mental health of their child.”
Before parental notification became law, Ellen Kolb of Cornerstone Policy Research said the Constitution gives parents the “liberty to rear their children without government interference (except) where absolutely necessary,” and said she believes the bill honors families and limited government.
But opponents argued that the law does nothing to protect the lives of young women or lower the number of unintended pregnancies. Pilar Olivo, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice NH said, “Notification mandates created delays and intimidating procedures when what young women need is health care and counseling from quality, licensed health care providers right here in new Hampshire. We oppose HB 329 because it puts the health and safety of young women at risk." (NARAL is the National Abortion Rights Action League.)
In addition, opposition for the bill came from physician and former Sen. James Squires: “The bill inserts government deeply into family matters.”
And the NH Medical Society said the bill conflicts with the patient-doctor relationship and with privacy rights.
Bill becomes law
HB 329 passed in the House by an overwhelming, veto-proof majority, 256-107. The state Senate passed it in late May and, on June 15, 2011, then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed HB 329, which would require girls under the age of eighteen to notify their parents or go before a judge within 48 hours before obtaining an abortion. There are no exceptions for cases of incest or rape, provisions the governor said he wanted to see, according to his explanation of his veto.
Lynch added that wanted to see the bill include more leeway for physicians to exercise their best medical judgment and continue with an abortion if a delay for parental notification would result in "a grave and immediate risk to the minor's health.”
Nevertheless, supporters of the bill said the language in the legislation complies with the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set by Roe v. Wade. On the other hand, senior policy adviser of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Jennifer Frizzell, told the Boston Globe: "With his veto, Gov. Lynch has taken a strong stand on behalf of New Hampshire teens who need access to safe and confidential health care when faced with an unintended pregnancy and an abusive or troubled home life."
Parental notification became law on June 22, 2011 with the House and Senate both overriding the governor's veto of the legislation. The House voted 266-102. The Senate voted 17-7.
In May 2012, HB 1723, which made some technical corrections to the new parental-notification law, was signed into law.