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Alaska court: parent needs to know when child seeks abortion

Court says parental notification law ‘sufficiently fosters a potential for worthwhile family involvement’
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska court Monday upheld most of a voter-approved state law that requires at least one parent to be notified before a minor child can obtain an abortion. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are co-counsel together with lead counsel Kevin Clarkson in defense of the law on behalf the group that sponsored the ballot initiative for it.

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

“A young girl’s well-being is worth more than Planned Parenthood’s bottom line. Abortionists don’t care more about children than parents do,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “The court has done the right thing in upholding the will of Alaska’s citizens, who clearly expressed themselves in the 2010 ballot initiative in an effort to protect young girls from predatory abortionists.”

“This decision represents a victory for the people of Alaska who, since 1995, have consistently shown their support for parental involvement in a minor girl’s abortion decision making,” added Clarkson, one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom. “The trial court wisely heeded the Alaska Supreme Court’s previous direction 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.’”

In its decision in Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest v. State of Alaska, the Alaska Superior Court for the 3rd Judicial District at Anchorage concluded that “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 sufficiently fosters a potential for worthwhile family involvement that it passes constitutional muster….”

The 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. The 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.

In addition to litigation assistance, Alliance Defending Freedom also provided funding to defend the notification law. Allied attorney Teresa Collett of the University of St. Thomas Law School provided expert testimony in the case.

Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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