Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on an abortion issue for the first time since 2000. The case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, concerned a New Hampshire law that required abortion providers to notify at least one parent of a minor seeking an abortion at least 48 hours prior to the procedure. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the law was constitutional, and that it must add a provision to protect the health of the mother in case of an emergency. In other words, doctors must be allowed to perform abortions on minors on an emergency basis if necessary without informing a parent.
The Minnesota Daily editorial board historically has steered clear of abortion issues, but in this case the ruling affects Minnesotans directly. Minnesota has a parental notification law with a similar constitutional problem regarding the mother’s health that must now be reconsidered.
Getting an abortion is a personal and complex decision that takes into account the mother’s family, the father, their religion and the life situations of everyone involved. However, in many ways, it is like any other medical procedure. Parents are allowed access to their minor children’s medical records, so it makes sense to notify them of an abortion as well. But parents often cannot be reached in case of an emergency and doctors are not required to withhold medical care if a parent cannot be notified when a minor is in a car accident and needs emergency treatment. An emergency abortion is exactly the same, and the court was wise in recognizing this.
In the 2004 presidential election, candidate John Kerry was criticized for voting against a federal ban on partial-birth abortions. His reasoning was that the bill made no provision for exceptions when the health of the mother was at stake, and again this is only fair. It is not the federal government’s purpose to decide, in this case, whose life is more important ” the fetus’ or the mother’s.
While abortion will remain a controversial topic, it is important to remember whose lives are affected by the decisions made at the state and federal levels ” often made by those who never face the difficult choices personal and medical situations can present.