Alaska quashes parental notice requirement for abortion

by Ciera Horton/WORLD News Service, posted Monday, August 01, 2016 (2 years ago)

ALASKA (BP) -- The Alaska Supreme Court on July 22 struck down a state law requiring abortionists to give two days' notice to parents before providing abortions to minors.

In a 2010 ballot initiative, 56 percent of voters approved what became the law requiring parental notification, but not consent, for a minor's abortion. Now the court says the law is unconstitutional and violates Alaska's equal-protection guarantee.

The decision "elevated the demands of abortionists over the rights of parents," said Steven H. Aden, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who is seeking to uphold the law.

Writing on behalf of the court, Justice Daniel Winfree said the law discriminated by having the state involved only in the reproductive choices of minors who wished to terminate their pregnancies, not those who wished to keep their children.

"It is clear that the notification law treats the two classes of pregnant minors differently," Winfree wrote, "burdening the fundamental privacy rights of those seeking termination but not the fundamental privacy rights of those seeking to carry to term."

The one dissenting vote came from Justice Craig Stowers, who argued the law gave parents the chance to discuss with their children the impact of abortions and alternatives to termination.

Alaska's law allowed for some flexibility with the notification requirements. It did not apply to girls ages 16 or 17 who were married or "emancipated" from their parents. Girls also had the option to bypass the notification process with permission from a judge or by providing a statement in cases of abuse. The law also contained an exemption for medical emergencies.

In 2007, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in State v. Planned Parenthood of Alaska that the state's Parental Consent Act violated minors' right to privacy. But the court noted that a parental notification law not requiring permission was constitutionally permissible and "may actually better serve the state's compelling interests."

In response, conservative leaders created the parental notification ballot initiative. Republican state Sen. Mia Costello, one of the initiative's original sponsors, wrote back in 2010: "Ultimately, you must ask yourself -- whom do you trust more to make medical decisions for your child: yourself, or an abortion doctor who happens to make money by performing abortions?"

Former Republican Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, another sponsor of the notification initiative, criticized the court's decision to invalidate the law, saying, "Alaskans understand that it makes sense for parents to be involved in the lives of their children."

Costello has also railed against the ruling, saying the court was "making judgments that are denigrating of families and parents. … It's the wrong direction that our country is going in, really, where families are being kept in the dark about things."

Ciera Horton writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com) based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.
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