Alaska's supreme court and the parental notification abortion law

You can’t have a story about abortion laws without a certain amount of angst and controversy, but this week’s news out of Alaska was disturbing for reasons which go well beyond the ubiquitous battles between pro-life and pro-abortion forces. The state had previously passed a referendum driven law which required parental notification (not permission) 48 hours in advance for girls below the age of majority to have an abortion. In Alaska that age is 18. The law was immediately challenged, as most such measures are these days, and the state’s supreme court shot it down, but for the most curious of reasons. (Alaska Dispatch News)

The Alaska Supreme Court has invalidated the state law requiring physicians to give two days notice to parents before performing abortions on girls under 18 years of age.

The parental notification law was approved by 56 percent of voters in a 2010 citizens initiative, with sponsors including Mia Costello, now an Anchorage Republican senator.

The law, Winfree’s decision said, inappropriately discriminates by involving the state in the reproductive decisions only of pregnant minors who seek abortions — not of pregnant minors who plan to carry their babies to term.

This is simply bizarre to say the least. The primary reason for my skepticism on this ruling is that the explanation offered by the court has virtually nothing to do with the limits of Roe v. Wade or any related subject. They found the law lacking because of the lack of equality in its application. As you read through the rationale provided, you’ll find that the legislation’s shortcoming is based on the fact that a law designed to regulate the access of teenage girls seeking abortions fails to provide provisions covering teenage girls not seeking abortions.

That’s a #HeadDesk moment for you to be sure.

If the court had truly wanted to tackle the tough questions surrounding this law they might have taken a few other factors into consideration. Was the burden of notifying the parents of the impending abortion of their daughter’s unborn child too great? Consider for a moment that it is illegal for a child under the age of 18 to get a tattoo in Alaska even if the parent consents to it. Violation of this law can land the tattoo artist in jail. For students under the age of 18 in that state, schools not only require written parental consent for the supervision of administration of over the counter medications (including aspirin) but in some cases require a written consent form from a health care provider. These procedures are apparently considered beyond the maturity of children to handle on their own, but an invasive surgical procedure which terminates a pregnancy is well within their ability to handle?

Keep in mind that I’m not even one of the hard core pro-life conservatives. I’m frequently criticized by some of my more staunch pro-life friends for not being an absolutist on the subject. But this decision seems simply absurd even to me. Parents need to be able to monitor and guide their children through life’s more challenging and difficult moments, and getting an abortion surely falls far higher on the scale than getting a new earring or taking some NyQuil for a chest cold. It sounds to me as if political correctness has infected the court up there to a nearly fatal degree.

(The original version of this article incorrectly stated that children could not get body piercings in Alaska even with parental consent. This is true of tattoos, but body piercings are legal if the parent or guardian consents and is present for the procedure. Article corrected to reflect this.)


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David Strom 3:21 PM on March 24, 2023