NH Parental Notification Bill Faces Enforcement Questions

Christine Hall | Staff Writer | Tuesday, April 29, 2003

NH Parental Notification Bill Faces Enforcement Questions

(CNSNews.com) - New Hampshire may be poised to pass the state's first law restricting abortion as the state Senate prepares to vote on a House-passed bill mandating parental notification before a minor could get an abortion.

"This is not a classic pro-life bill by any means," said Rep. Kathleen Souza (R- Hillsborough). "This does not outlaw abortion. All it does is make the parents aware. It's not a consent bill. It's just a notification, so then at least they're empowered to try to talk with their children and act in their best interest."

The bill allows waivers of notification if the attending abortion provider certifies that the abortion is necessary to prevent the minor's death and there is insufficient time to provide the required notice or if a court rules that a pregnant minor is mature and capable of giving informed consent.

One problem with the status quo, said Souza, is that teens too often don't believe their parents will emotionally support them in cases of unplanned pregnancies; but notification laws prove them wrong.

New Hampshire has long resisted any abortion restrictions, with the House historically being the biggest hurdle. But 2003 may provide a different result since voters gave Republicans (many of them conservatives) a net gain of 26 seats in the 400-member House last election day.

Souza's bill passed the House by a slim margin, but the vote will also be close in the Senate, she said. "It may come down to one vote."

New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, has indicated he will sign the bill. And pro-lifers continue to hope Congress will offer its own aid on such matters. U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) recently re-introduced a bill that would forbid adults from transporting a minor across state lines for an abortion without parental consent.

The National Right to Life Committee contends that some states with parental involvement laws have seen their teen pregnancy rates go down.

Opponents of parental involvement laws argue that such laws make teens resort to abortions that are self-induced, are subjected to family violence, suicide, later abortions and unwanted childbirth. New Hampshire Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen told the Associated Press that the notification law would be a step towards reversing Roe v. Wade, the bill defining a fetus as "any individual human organism from fertilization until birth."

But just because there are laws on the books, not all teens are prevented from getting abortions, even if they lack parental notification or consent. Some states do not enforce the laws, according to Sen. Ensign. And a nationwide undercover sting operation conducted by a Texas pro-life research organization called Life Dynamics found some abortion clinic workers allegedly telling teens to lie about or conceal their ages, the age of their partners or to give other false or misleading information. Abortion foes contend such tactics are used to circumnavigate notification and consent laws and also to avoid having to report cases of statutory rape.

"The most reliable current data shows that among girls 15 years of age or younger who get pregnant, between 60 and 80 percent are impregnated by adults," said Mark Crutcher, president of Life Dynamics.

The Supreme Court has ruled that parental notification laws are constitutional (Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 1976), as long as teens have recourse to lower courts in lieu of parental notification (Hodgson v. Minnesota, 1990).

See Earlier Story:
Birth Control New Target of Parental Notification Legislation

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