Alaska Supreme Court Invalidates Parental Consent Law on Teen Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 5, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Alaska Supreme Court Invalidates Parental Consent Law on Teen Abortions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 5,

Juneau, AK ( — The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday issued a decision overturning a state law allowing parents the right to agree to or deny abortions their minor teenager daughters may be considering. The state’s parental consent law has been tied up in court ever since the state legislature approved in in 1997.

The court issued a 3-2 decision on the law claming that it denies a teenager her so-called right to an abortion, even though the U.S. Supreme Court, which handed down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, has consistently upheld parental notification and consent laws.

The statue in question includes a judicial bypass provision the top federal court has directed that such measures have to meet constitutional muster.

Though the high court ruled against the statute, Chief Justice Dana Fabe, writing for the majority, said a measure that simply provided parents with notification in advance of a minor’s abortion, rather than obtaining their consent, would be legally sound.

Both the majority and the two dissenting judges agree that parents should play a vital role in their children’s lives and health care decisions but the majority said parents should not have a veto power to override a teen’s decision to get an abortion.

Justices Walter Carpeneti and Warren Matthews issued dissents in the case and said the state legislature carefully balanced the right of parents and teenagers and said the measure "is the least restrictive alternative which will effectively advance the state’s compelling interests while protecting the child’s constitutional right."

The law never went into effect after the legislature approved it because a Planned Parenthood abortion business filed a lawsuit against it shortly after the governor signed it into law.

According to statistics from the state health department, there were 1,923 abortions in Alaska in 2006 and 126 were done on girls 17 or younger who would have been subject to the parental consent law.

The ruling is the second time the Alaska Supreme Court has weighed in on the parental consent law. In 2001, the justices ruled the measure invalid and cited the state’s privacy clause as the reason, despite any wording saying the clause was meant to uphold an unlimited right to abortion.

The court’s decision law week upholds a 2003 Superior Court decision saying the law is invalid.

Following that decision, a woman who is the founder of a group dedicated to helping parents know about teen’s abortions, talked with about her experience.

“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.

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 ex-Gov. Tony Knowles, who is planning a 2004 run for the U.S. Senate.

In March 2003, a social worker affiliated with an Alaska hospital arranged a secret abortion for a 15 year-old teenager in Seattle paid for at government expense. The escapade became the subject of a lawsuit.