Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, 546 U.S. 320 (2006), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States involving a facial challenge to New Hampshire's parental notification abortion law. The First Circuit had ruled that the law was unconstitutional and an injunction against its enforcement was proper. The Supreme Court vacated this judgment and remanded the case, but avoided a substantive ruling on the challenged law or a reconsideration of prior Supreme Court abortion precedent. Instead, the Court only addressed the issue of remedy, holding that invalidating a statute in its entirety "is not always necessary or justified, for lower courts may be able to render narrower declaratory and injunctive relief."
The opinion was delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who had been significantly responsible for developing the Court's recent abortion jurisprudence. This decision was O'Connor's last opinion on the Court before her retirement on January 31, 2006.
DiClerico found the Act unconstitutional on the following grounds:
DiClerico declined to rule on the plaintiffs' other claim, that the Act was unconstitutional for failing to provide specific protections for the confidentiality of a minor seeking a judicial waiver.
The Court vacated the judgment of the First Circuit in a unanimous decision authored by Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The Court did not revisit any abortion precedents, such as its decision in Casey.
The Court considered under what circumstances federal courts can enjoin enforcement of abortion laws if in some cases such laws would have the effect of regulating abortion more strictly than is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, as the New Hampshire law did in some circumstances.
The Court ruled that in such circumstances facial invalidation of a statute would be inappropriate if the statute could be narrowed sufficiently by judicial interpretation. It raised the question of what the appropriate judicial remedy would be if a statute's enforcement would be unconstitutional in medical emergencies. The court ruled that "invalidating the statute entirely is not always necessary or justified, for lower courts may be able to render narrower declaratory and injunctive relief."
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