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06.19.13 - In 2007, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that a law challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which would have required minors under 17 to have parental consent or a court order to obtain an abortion, violated the right to privacy under the Alaska Constitution. In August 2010, Alaska voters passed an initiative making it a criminal offense for a physician to perform an abortion for a woman under the age of 18 unless a parent, guardian or custodian consents in writing or is notified 48 hours before the procedure, or the minor provides a notarized and corroborated statement that she is abused, or a judge authorizes her to proceed without parental involvement because she is mature or because parental involvement would not be in her best interests.
Although the vast majority of young women – particularly younger teens – involve a parent or other adult in the decision to have an abortion, some young women who are in abusive or other difficult family situations do not feel that they can turn to their parents.Major professional organizations concerned with adolescent health, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose mandatory parental involvement laws as threats to the health and safety of young women. These laws can delay abortion, subject a young woman to abuse, or cause a disapproving parent to try to coerce her to carry the pregnancy to term, or make her feel that an illegal procedure is her only option.
Plaintiff(s): Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Jan Whitefield, M.D., and Susan Lemagie, M.D.
Center Attorney(s): Janet Crepps
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Jeffrey Feldman and Susan Orlansky, Feldman Orlansky & Sanders, Thomas Stenson, ACLU of Alaska Foundation, Talcott Camp and Andrew Beck, ACLU Foundation, Laura Einstein, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Diana Salgado, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The Center, along with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the ACLU, sued on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, two physicians, and their patients, arguing that the parental notice law violates the privacy and equal protection guarantees of the Alaska Constitution and that its provisions are so vague that enforcement would violate the due process rights of abortion providers.
In October 2012, following a three-week trial, the court issued an opinion upholding the law overall as permissible under Alaska’s privacy and equal protection provisions. The court did strike down certain provisions of the law: a civil liability provision that would have subjected physicians to strict liability and virtually unlimited damages, a requirement that only the physician performing the abortion could provide the notice to a parent, application of the law in circumstances where pregnancy loss was inevitable, and a requirement that minors seeking judicial bypass of the notice provision meet a very high burden of proof.