New Hampshire State House.</(WOMENSENEWS)–After nearly three decades of trying to pass a parental notification abortion law, anti-choice legislators in New Hampshire expect this to be the year to finally succeed.

In November, Republicans, who tend to be anti-choice, gained control of the state legislature and announced plans to introduce a parental notification law this spring. Similar bills have failed 14 times in the past 28 years.

This spring proponents think they’ll finally be able to get it passed, not only because Republicans control the Senate but also because men are now the majority, unlike in 2008 when the Senate was female dominant.

In 2003, when Republicans dominated the legislature, New Hampshire passed the nation’s most restrictive parental notification law, which allowed no medical exceptions. Anti-choice legislators said any exception would be used by teens to avoid informing their parents.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled unanimously in 2006 that a medical emergency must be included and sent the law back to the lower court to see if it could be retooled. Later that year, a pro-choice Democratic majority swept into the legislature and repealed the law before the court could rule.

About 7 percent of the 1.2 million abortions each year in the U.S. are undertaken by women under age 18.

The New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion reporting requirements nationwide, has found that 36 states have laws requiring notification of a parent 24 to 48 hours before the procedure. Thirty-two states make exceptions for minors to obtain abortion in medical emergencies.

The specifics of the most recent New Hampshire notification push have not been determined, but it could spur other states to follow suit.

"The combination of Gonzales v. Carhart and abortion being on the national stage in D.C. particularly during the health care debate, has emboldened legislators and activists to push harder for more restrictive abortion laws," said Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy counsel for the U.S. legal program of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based legal advocacy group.

Nebraska Law Possibly Replicated

A 2010 Nebraska law that makes it more difficult for women to obtain abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy may also be ripe for replication by other states this year.

Net Change in Choice Composition in States






16 plus D.C.

Mixed Choice









State Legislatures




10 plus D.C.

8 plus D.C.




State Governments






State Governments (Governors and Legislatures)





6 plus D.C.







Source: NARAL Pro-Choice America



Abortions after the 20th week are rare and usually done because of some unforeseen problem in the fetus that endangers a woman’s life or physical or mental health.

The 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart made it easier for the states to pass legislation that essentially prohibited abortions after 20 weeks, because the court held that the government had a legitimate and substantial interest in protecting fetal life.

In December, delegates to the state strategy conference in Arlington, Va., sponsored by National Right to Life, also in Arlington, learned how they might apply the Nebraska law in their states.

Battle lines quickly formed in Iowa in December after Dr. LeRoy Carhart–one of only 300 physicians in the nation to provide abortion after 20 weeks–closed his practice in Omaha, Neb., in response to the Nebraska law. Carhart then announced plans to open a clinic in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that would provide later abortions. Shortly after Rep. Matt Windschitl, assistant majority leader of the Iowa House, drafted a bill similar to the Nebraska statue that makes the fetal pain argument.

Carhart was also picketed when he began to offer later procedures at a clinic in Germantown, Md., in late December. He said he is offering these services because he wants to continue the work of Dr. George Tiller, the Wichita, Kan., physician who offered later abortions and was killed by an anti-abortion activist.

Windschitl, a board member of Iowa Right to Life, believes the measure will pass because Republicans gained control of the House in November and now have a 60-40 edge. Democrats still control the Iowa Senate and are hoping to defeat the measure, which Republican Gov.-elect Terry Branstad has promised to sign if the bill reaches his desk.

New Kansas Bill

Later abortions may also become more difficult to obtain in Kansas, which now allows the procedure after 21 weeks if the woman faces death or harm to a major bodily function. Republican Rep. Steve Huebert filed a bill last week that would alter the law to eliminate later abortions for mental or emotional reasons. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who was elected in November, said he would sign the anti-choice legislation.

"Laws that impose restrictions discourage many physicians from offering any abortion services," said Donna Crane, policy director of the Washington-based NARAL Pro-Choice America, the political watchdog of the pro-choice movement for more than 30 years. "Almost 90 percent of the counties in the United States have no abortion providers, which makes it difficult for women who live in rural areas or have limited funds to access the procedure."

In 2010, nine states introduced bills that imposed regulations on outpatient clinics making it difficult for them to provide the procedure. Other states introduced legislation to prohibit midwives from performing abortions or excluded physicians who perform abortions from receiving malpractice insurance from state pools that offer less costly premiums.

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Sharon Johnson is a New York-based freelance writer.

For more information:

NARAL Pro-Choice America:

Center for Reproductive Rights: