Alaska Judge Overturns Parental Consent Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 15, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Alaska Judge Overturns Parental Consent Law

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 15, 2003

Anchorage, AK ( — An Alaska judge on Monday declared a law unconstitutional that requires abortion facilities to obtain the consent of a teen’s parents before performing an abortion on her. Similar pro-life laws have reduced the number of teen abortions in other states.

Superior Court Judge Sen Tan admitted the state had several reasons why it considered the law necessary, though he felt the law did not go far enough in protecting teens who are victims of child abuse.

However, the law is patterned after U.S. Supreme Court requirements that include a judicial bypass for teens who are victims of abuse.

Pro-life groups were disappointed by the decision.

“If parents are responsible for their daughter’s physical and emotional consequences after the abortion, then they should have the right to know before such a life and death decision is made alone by their minor aged daughter," said Eileen Roberts, the founder of a group dedicated to helping parents know about teen’s abortions.

Roberts, whose own daughter was hurt by a botched abortion performed without her knowledge or consent, added, "Who better to know their daughter then a child’s parent or legal guardian, and this common sense law protects families."

The state legislature passed the pro-life law in 1997 and then voted to override the veto of pro-abortion Gov. Tony Knowles, who is planning a 2004 run for the U.S. Senate.

Planned Parenthood took the law to court immediately upon its passage.

In a statement, Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who sponsored the law in the state Senate, criticized Tan’s decision, saying it "undermines the rights of parents to be involved in one of the most difficult decisions that a child will ever make."

"This is yet another example of judicial activism, of judges exceeding their constitutional authority and acting as writers of the law, rather than interpreters of it," Leman said.

Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson, who represented the state in the lawsuit, said he expects pro-life Gov. Frank Murkowski and the state attorney general to appeal Tan’s decision.

Tan previously denied the law in a 1998 hearing saying a trial was unnecessary.

The state appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, which sent the case back to Tan with instructions to him to hold a hearing and determine whether the state has a compelling interest in the requirement.