BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: The Supreme Court next Wednesday (November 30) considers another case in the ongoing battle over abortion. The question is not whether abortion is a right. Observers say a majority of the court accepts that. The question is whether and how that right should be narrowed. The case comes from New Hampshire, where a state law requires that before they can perform an abortion on a minor, doctors must notify the girl's parents. Tim O'Brien reports.
TIM O'BRIEN: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England challenged New Hampshire's parental notification law before it could even take effect, claiming the state's failure to make an exception for medical emergencies would impose an "undue burden" on many young women seeking abortion.
DAWN TOUZIN (Planned Parenthood of Northern New England): Play out the scenario: You have a young woman, perhaps, who is in an emergency room needing very immediate treatment. She may not die, but there can be long-term health ramifications that would be detrimental, and at that point the government has now stepped in between her and the provider who would want to give immediate treatment.
O'BRIEN: A federal appeals court sided with Planned Parenthood, ruling the failure to include a health exception was inconsistent with ROE V. WADE, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
Even with a change in membership making the Supreme Court more conservative, there are not enough votes to overrule ROE V. WADE, and there may never be. This case represents what could be the new frontier in the abortion war -- to what extent may states restrict abortion rights, as the legislature has tried to do here?
The New Hampshire law does allow an exception when the juvenile's life is in danger. It also allows her to seek the permission of a judge in those cases where parental notification might be impractical.
This Wednesday (November 30), New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte will tell the Supreme Court that under the law, judges are available 24/7.
KELLY AYOTTE (Attorney General, New Hampshire): What judge is not going to allow a physician to perform an abortion if he's told, or she's told, that as a matter of medical need, "I've got a medical emergency here, and an abortion needs to be performed?"
MS. TOUZIN: It's two o'clock on a Saturday morning. How much time is it going to take to track down a judge at that point? And even when you do...
O'BRIEN: You'd think at two o'clock on a Saturday morning, judges would be pretty easy to find -- in bed.