Center Files Friend-of-the-Court Brief in Supreme Court Abortion Case

30 Women’s Groups Sign On To Save Women’s Health and Lives

Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an amicus curiae brief in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, an abortion case scheduled to go before the Supreme Court on November 30. Last year, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit struck down as unconstitutional a 2003 New Hampshire law requiring physicians to notify a teenager's parents before providing her with an abortion. The court held the act unconstitutional because it lacked the required exception allowing an abortion to go forward where a medical emergency threatened the teenager's health.

Also before the court is a more technical question about how and when lawsuits challenging abortion restrictions can be brought. The state is seeking to overrule thirty years of abortion jurisprudence, according to which constitutional challenges to abortion restrictions may be brought before the restriction actually takes effect and before a woman has suffered harm to her health and her rights. The Center's brief addresses this second question.

"This case could fundamentally change the legal landscape for abortion in this country," said Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "For years, we've challenged dangerous laws such as New Hampshire's before they cause any harm to a woman's health and before they prevent a woman from exercising her right to terminate her pregnancy. New Hampshire would rather have us wait until a woman is on the brink of medical tragedy before a lawsuit can be filed."

New Hampshire, supported by the U.S. Solicitor General, also contends that a state abortion law cannot be declared unconstitutional "on its face" unless there is "no set of circumstances" in which the law could be applied constitutionally. As the Center's friend-of-the-court brief illustrates, the state's argument means that each woman who needs an abortion to save her health would be required to file a lawsuit to show why the law is unconstitutional in her particular situation. As a result, women seeking abortions would be forced to fight court battles while they are facing emergency medical needs.

Thirty women's groups across the country, including medical, legal, and research organizations, have signed on to the Center for Reproductive Rights' brief. They include: Abortion Access Project; American Jewish Congress; Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice; Association of Reproductive Health Professionals; Atlanta Women's Medical Center; California Women Lawyers; Cherry Hill Women's Center; CHOICE USA; Family Planning Association of Maine; Guttmacher Institute; Hartford Gyn Center; Institute for Reproductive Health Access; Law Students for Choice; MADRE; Medical Students for Choice; National Abortion Federation; National Association of Women Lawyers; National Coalition of Abortion Providers; National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; National Network of Abortion Funds; National Partnership for Women & Families; National Women's Law Center; Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center; Northeast Women's Center; Philadelphia Women's Center; Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health; ProKanDo; Sexuality Information & Education Council of the United States; Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles

Click here to read the full amicus brief >>