New England: re-entering the abortion debate

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to review the repeal of a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification before a minor can get an abortion, re-entering the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>abortion debate after a filibuster compromise on Capitol Hill and amid speculation about Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's health.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and others successfully challenged the law in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, arguing that it lacked an exception to protect the mother's health as required by a 2000 Supreme Court decision, reports the Washington Times.

According to the Union Leader, the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, based in Boston, ruled last year that the New Hampshire law is unconstitutional under a 1992 Supreme Court decision that said states may not impose any "undue burden" on the right to abortion. The Supreme Court defined that as a law that "in a large fraction of cases" puts a "substantial obstacle" in the way of someone seeking an abortion.

In its appeal, New Hampshire says the 1st Circuit applied the wrong legal standard. It cites a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that suggests opponents of the law must show the law would impinge on abortion rights not just in some or most cases but in all cases.

While this is a seemingly technical point, the court's ruling on it could have a far-reaching impact.

If the justices affirm the ruling of the 1st Circuit, striking down the law, the effect will be to fortify and entrench Supreme Court abortion rights precedents - before Bush has the chance to appoint multiple justices who may not favor abortion rights.

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