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N.H. Senate votes abortion law repeal

Governor says he will sign the bill

CONCORD, N.H. -- The state Senate voted yesterday to make New Hampshire the first state to repeal a law requiring parental notification for teenagers to get abortions.

The parental notification law has been on the books for four years but never enforced.

The Senate vote, 15 to 9, sent the bill to Governor John Lynch, who says he will sign it.

Senate majority leader Joseph Foster, a Democrat, said the issue before lawmakers was an unconstitutional law, not abortion or parental rights.

"This is about a bill that, when adopted, was known by the Legislature to be unconstitutional," he said.

Senate Republican leader Ted Gatsas also said the issue was not about abortion.

"This is about what we think of families," he said, voting against the repeal.

The only Republican senator to vote to repeal the law was Bob Odell.

The House voted 226 to 130 earlier to get rid of the 2003 law, which has been bogged down in legal fights.

The law requires abortion providers to notify at least one parent 48 hours or more before performing an abortion on a minor.

It was challenged by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and a federal judge declared it unconstitutional in late 2003 because it lacks a provision to forgo notification in emergencies where the health of the mother is at stake.

The state appealed, and the US Supreme Court sent it back to the federal court in New Hampshire to determine if the law could be salvaged. US District Judge Joseph DiClerico put the case on hold while the Legislature acted.

In March, the House rejected amendments that would have added a health exception in emergencies, required the court to keep the proceedings confidential, and clarified that girls who did not want to notify a parent would have access to a judge around the clock.

Gatsas also proposed amending the bill once it reached the Senate to allow it to take effect.

A Senate committee rejected the amendment, which would exempt minors from notifying parents in the case of a medical emergency resulting in "substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily functions."

The Senate on Thursday voted against the amendment, 15 to 9.

Repeal opponents have tried to pressure supporters to change their minds.

They stressed that parents' rights are at stake.

The Legislature consistently voted for abortion rights before passing the law under Governor Craig Benson, a Republican, and a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Democrats took charge in December, and abortion rights activists moved quickly to strip the law from the books.