The Anchorage Superior Court released a decision upholding Alaska’s parental notification law on Monday. In the process, it also reversed itself on a controversial provision allowing doctors to be prosecuted for knowingly providing abortions to minors without the notification of at least one parent.
The law was passed in 2010 through a ballot initiative, and Planned Parenthood sued, calling the law unconstitutional. Judge John Suddock did not agree, and upheld the law because of a “compelling state interest” in promoting family involvement.
But even though Suddock kept most of the law intact, he was critical of many of the state’s arguments. He determined that “parental involvement advances no compelling state interest in the health of minor women,” and that it didn’t protect minors from “illicit relationships.”
He also described the criminal and civil sanctions included in the law troubling. Under the parental notification law, a knowing violation could result in a 5-year jail term and a $1,000 fine for a doctor who provides an abortion to a minor without notice to her parents. Suddock called this “draconian,” but allowed this part of the law to go through after the state argued that the statute wouldn’t be enforced. Suddock tossed out a different portion of the law that would open doctors up to civil penalties who violated one of the parental notification statues without realizing it.
Planned Parenthood has not yet decided whether it will appeal the decision, according to attorney Janet Crepps.