USCCB urges Supreme Court to uphold parental notification law in New Hampshire

.- In a friend of the court brief, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold New Hampshire’s parental notification law. The case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, arose when lower courts overturned the New Hampshire statute because it did not contain a “health exception.”

The brief described the decision by the First Circuit as a “throwback” to an earlier time before the Supreme Court acknowledged in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) that it had gone “too far” in striking down reasonable restrictions on abortion.

“Applying Casey and other precedent, this Court should reject the attempt to portray parental notice laws as creating a conflict between the rights of parents and the interests of their children,” reads the amicus brief, filed Aug. 4.

The parental notification law sought to advance the constitutionally protected responsibility of parents to be the guardians of their children’s health, says the brief.

It notes that the Supreme Court upheld a Minnesota parental notice law against constitutional challenge despite the absence of a “health” exception in Hodgson v. Minnesota, (1990).

“It would be a grave mistake to divest parents of meaningful input into the health care of their own dependent children,” the brief states. “The First Circuit’s decision falsely assumes a conflict between the right and responsibility of parents to care for their children, on the one hand, and the best interests of their children, on the other. In every other context, the law assumes that parents are the natural guardians of their children’s health and best interests. It should be no different here.”

The brief asserts that requiring a health exception in this case is unnecessary since the New Hampshire statute allows minors to bypass their parents through 24-hour access to the state courts. It would also undermine the whole point of the notification requirement.

A health exception would be subject to abuse, the brief said, because it would make an abortion practitioner with a financial interest in performing an abortion the custodian, in place of the parents, of a pregnant teen’s interests.

The brief was prepared by Mark E. Chopko, General Counsel, and Michael F. Moses, Associate General Counsel.

For the full brief, go to: www.usccb.org/ogc/amicusind.shtml

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