By Dave Andrusko
When last we wrote about Alaska’s parental notification law, Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock had just upheld the constitutionality of most of the law.
The law was a reflection of an August 2010 voter initiative (Ballot Measure 2) that passed with 55% support. In general, the law says abortion providers must notify parents of girls 17 and younger at least 48 hours before performing an abortion. The law has a judicial bypass that allows the teenager to skirt the requirement to notify her parents. The law also provides that the minor can provide the abortionist with a notarized statement attesting to abuse at home.
The impact was dramatic. In 2011, the first full year after the law was in place, there was a 23% drop in the number of abortions for girls 17 and under—from 113 in 2010 to 87 in 2011–according to the state Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and two abortionists sued and the state defended the law. Judge Suddock heard both sides during a three-week trial in February and March, 2010.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest argued that the law “could delay or prevent vulnerable girls from receiving an abortion because of the legal hoops and complicated mechanisms,” Lisa Demer of the Anchorage Daily News reported at the time.
But Judge Suddock concluded that “the legal requirement does not violate a teenager’s right to privacy,” Demer wrote. “Nor, the judge ruled, does it violate provisions to treat people equally even though a pregnant teen generally cannot receive an abortion without her parents’ knowing, but could get prenatal care.”
“We said, ‘Have there been girls put into difficult situations because of this law?’” recalled Margaret Paton Walsh, an assistant attorney general who was part of the state’s trial team defending the law. “And the answer to that question was ‘Not really.’ … The girls who wanted abortions have gotten abortions.”
According to Demer, “In the 14 months that the law was in effect before the February trial, just nine minors went to court to bypass the notification requirement, Suddock said in his order. Eight petitions were granted and one teen withdrew her request.”
At the time of Suddock’s 65-page decision—October 2010—everyone understood the decision would be appealed by pro-abortionists, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, to the state Supreme Court. The appeal took place in 2013 and the five judges heard oral arguments yesterday.