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Abortion notification

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, 546 U.S. 320 (2006)

Also under Abortions

Outcome:  Somewhat Unfavorable


The issue in this case was whether the New Hampshire Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act violated the Federal Constitution, because the statute required notification even in emergency situations that could endanger the minor’s health. 

AMA interest

The AMA supports physicians’ right to practice ethical medicine, under which they should exercise their best medical judgment solely on behalf of their patients and without concern that such exercise will run afoul of non-medical, legal restrictions.  The AMA opposes the imposition of criminal penalties against physicians on account of their good faith medical decisions. 

Case summary

The New Hampshire Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act required that, except in special situations, a physician who is to perform an abortion on a minor ensure that the minor’s parents have received at least 48 hours notice of the intent to perform the abortion.  The sanctions for violation of the law included civil liability and criminal penalties.  The law allowed physicians to avoid the notice requirement if necessary to prevent the minor’s death, but notice had to be provided even if so doing could result in medical complications and suffering short of death.  Both the federal district court and the court of appeals had held the statute unconstitutional.

By unanimous decision, the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and remanded the case.  The Supreme Court held that the New Hampshire statute was defective, in that it did not include a “health exception” to the obligation to notify parents.  However, the lower courts were ordered to reexamine the law to see if they could devise a remedy to save the valid portions of the statute and still make it conform to Supreme Court precedents, rather than voiding it completely.

Litigation Center involvement

The Litigation Center filed an amicus curiae brief to oppose the parental notification law.  The brief highlighted the medical and practical difficulties that the New Hampshire law could cause physicians and their patients.  It also made clear that the AMA neither supports nor opposes its members’ performing abortions, as that is a matter of individual conscience. 

United States Supreme Court brief.

Roe v. Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio Region, 912 N.E.2d 61 (Ohio 2009)

878 N.E.2d 1061 (Ohio App. 2007)

Also under Patient privacy

Outcome:  Very Favorable


The issue in this case is whether a teenage girl and her parents could obtain production of redacted non-party medical records in a suit claiming an improper abortion.

AMA interest

The AMA believes that communications between physician and patients should be confidential.

Case summary

A 14-year old girl who became pregnant by her 21-year old soccer coach obtained an abortion by deceiving Planned Parenthood into a belief that the girl's father consented to the abortion.  The soccer coach eventually was convicted of sexual battery and sentenced to prison.

The girl, through her parents, sued Planned Parenthood and the obstetrician-gynecologist (Ob-Gyn) who had performed the abortion.  The plaintiffs alleged violations of various Ohio statutes requiring parental notice and consent.  They asserted that the defendants regularly violated these statutory requirements, and they requested discovery from Planned Parenthood and the Ob-Gyn of medical records of all minors who had sought abortions and on whom abortions had been performed during the previous ten years.  Over the defendants' objections, the trial court ordered production of the documents with specific patient-identifying information removed.

On an interlocutory appeal, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that a private plaintiff's interest in attempting to bolster a speculative punitive damages award alone does not outweigh the patient's interest in maintaining confidentiality.  The plaintiffs then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.  By a spilt decision, The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and upheld the privileged character of the medical records. 

Litigation Center involvement

The Litigation Center, along with the Ohio State Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, filed two amicus curiae briefs in the Ohio Supreme Court supporting Planned Parenthood and the Ob-Gyn.

Ohio Supreme Court brief.

Ohio Supreme Court supplemental brief.