Alaska Supreme Court: Parents Can Be Left in the Dark When Their Daughter Has Abortion

State   |   Alliance Defending Freedom   |   Jul 22, 2016   |   3:12PM   |   Juneau, Alaska

The Alaska Supreme Court struck down a voter-approved state law Friday that required at least one parent to be notified before a minor child can obtain an abortion.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest filed suit against the law, which voters approved through Ballot Measure 2 in 2010. The law provided an option for a judge to bypass the notification requirement in special circumstances, but the high court invalidated the law nonetheless.

“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, who argued before the court in defense of the law last year. Clarkson is lead counsel for the group that sponsored the ballot initiative for the law and is one of more than 3,000 private attorneys allied with ADF.

The Alaska Supreme Court had ruled in a previous case 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.”

The court Friday nonetheless accepted the erroneous argument Planned Parenthood attorneys made in Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest v. State of Alaska that the notification law was unreasonable under the state constitution.

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In October 2012, a trial court upheld most of the law and concluded 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… The court concludes that the PNL [parental notification law] sufficiently fosters a potential for worthwhile family involvement that it passes constitutional muster….”

The trial court upheld the entirety of the law except for two provisions: one that allowed parents to sue in civil court if an abortionist fails to obey the law, and a provision that required clear and convincing evidence at bypass hearings. That court chose to leave enforcement to the state and to allow judges to use a preponderance of the evidence standard when considering a bypass request.

“We’re disappointed that the court elevated the demands of abortionists over the rights of parents,” added ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden, co-counsel in the case. “The majority of Alaskans supported the Parental Involvement Law and adopted it through a state ballot initiative because it is entirely reasonable. It is very unfortunate the Alaska Supreme Court chose not to give parents an opportunity to counsel and support their daughters when facing a difficult situation—the very opportunity that the court itself previously said that the state constitution permits.”