Judge Wrong to Eviscerate Alaska Parental Notification Law

State   |   Jim Minnery   |   Dec 15, 2010   |   5:43PM   |   Anchorage, AK

Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock acted more like a dentist than a judge by effectively removing the teeth from the parental notice law Alaskans voted for in August.

In his ruling, Judge Suddock took out the criminal and civil penalties for physicians who knowingly violate the law by performing an abortion on a minor without notifying parents beforehand.

This ruling is a case statement for the judiciary defying the will of the people and the legislature.

The question Alaskans need to ask themselves is how effective would a law against drunk driving or a traffic violation or any other law be if there were no penalty attached to it? What incentive do doctors now have to comply with this law?

Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade, voted himself to uphold parental involvement laws, both consent and notice laws, that had criminal penalties attached to them. Out of the 36 states that currently have parental involvement laws on their books, 35 of them have criminal and civil penalties associated with them. Oklahoma is the one state without a criminal penalty but even it has a civil fine.

In other words, Alaska is now the ONLY state in the country without a criminal or civil penalty associated with its parental involvement law.

Further eroding the effectiveness of the citizen initiative-passed law, Judge Suddock struck out the “clear and convincing” evidence standard in the judicial bypass proceeding. In doing so, Judge Suddock ignored the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Santosky v. Kramer that parents are entitled to clear and convincing evidence protection before they are deprived of their rights to control and care of their minor children.

Pregnant teens can now stand before a judge and claim to be in an abusive home environment without actually having to prove it. The law, as passed, provided a means for a teen to avoid telling an abusive parent about her decision to get an abortion but she had to at least have some evidence. Not any longer.

Where do we go from here? The ruling essentially is a preliminary or temporary injunction or ban of certain provisions of the parental notice law. Now, more than ever, we must continue to mount the strongest legal defense of this law in the coming weeks as evidence is brought before the court.

There are steps we can take to help protect what we worked so hard to gain. The state Department of Law, under the direction of Governor Parnell, bears primary responsibility for defending the law in court against Planned Parenthood’s attacks.

We have already been in communication with the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Attorney General and have urged them to organize the most aggressive legal defense possible.

We also plan on filing an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Alaskans for Parental Rights / Alaska Family Action, in which we outline for the court’s consideration the arguments and factual evidence proving that parental notice is both constitutional and good public policy.

We’ll also be coordinating with other pro-life and pro-family organizations, both state and national, to encourage them to file their own amicus briefs with the court. We must remind Judge Suddock that there is broad support for this law.

LifeNews.com Note:  Jim Minnery is the president of Alaska Family Action, the advocacy arm of Alaska Family Council.