Life & Society

Alaska Supreme Court strikes down abortion parental notification law for minors

Reuters – Anti-abortion supporters march on Capitol Hill during the National March for Life rally in Washington on Jan. 22, 2016.

Minors can now get abortion in Alaska without informing their parents.

This came about after the Alaska Supreme Court stuck down on July 22 the voter-enacted Parental Notification Law, which requires a 48-hour advance parental notice before a physician can perform abortion on a minor.

“We conclude that the Notification Law violates the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and cannot be enforced,” the state Supreme Court ruled. “And as a court we are not concerned with whether abortion is right, wrong, moral, or immoral, or with whether abortions should be available to minors without restriction. We are concerned only with whether, given its stated underlying justifications, the current Notification Law complies with the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee — and it does not.”

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged the law in court. The notification law was approved by voters in 2010.

“Parents are the individuals who care most for the physical and emotional well-being of their children. The primary vested interest that an abortion clinic has is its bottom line. We had hoped the Alaska Supreme Court would keep its promise to the people of Alaska to permit a parental notice law designed to protect parental rights and the safety of children,” said Kevin Clarkson, a lawyer affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who defended the law in court last year.

In a previous case, the Supreme Court ruled that “the Alaska Constitution permits a statutory scheme which ensures that parents are notified so that they can be engaged in their daughters’ important decisions in these matters.”

In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Craig Stowers wrote, “Moreover the majority and concurrence ignore in practical effect the interests and rights of the State and parents in taking steps to assist a minor who is seeking an abortion in receiving information and counseling concerning all aspects of that decision.”

He said the U.S. Supreme Court stated “that the State has a legitimate right to enact laws designed to encourage a woman contemplating abortion to be informed regarding the effects that abortion may have on her and regarding alternatives to abortion.”

Stowers said by invalidating the parents’ right to discuss with their daughter the effects and alternatives to abortion, “the Alaska Court today trivializes and makes this right of no effect.”

A court upheld most provisions of the law in October 2012, concluding that it is reasonable because “minors may be pleasantly surprised when underestimated parents support, comfort and affirm them. Or a teen might overlook available resources. Her parents might help raise the child, and so make college or military service feasible. Parental notification undoubtedly can open doors to unconsidered options for an otherwise isolated young woman,” according to the ADF.

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