Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, et al. v. State of Alaska

This case challenges a law which would require a young woman seeking an abortion to have at least one of her parents notified of the procedure and to wait at least 48 hours before she could obtain the procedure, unless the young woman sought a judicial bypass of the parental notification requirement from a court.

Filing date: 11/19/10

State: Alaska

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.

Summary: Alaskan minors have been able to obtain abortions without state-mandated parental involvement for more than 30 years. In 1997, the Alaska Legislature passed a law requiring parental consent or a court order before a minor under the age of 17 could obtain an abortion. The Center successfully challenged that law; it never went into effect and in 2007 the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that it violated the right to privacy under the Alaska Constitution.

In 2010, anti-abortion forces in Alaska had an initiative placed on the ballot requiring parental notification for abortion for young women under the age of 18. The measure was approved in August 2010.

The Center filed suit on November 19, 2010, representing Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and two Alaskan physicians on behalf of themselves and their patients, and simultaneously filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Parental Notification Law ("PNL"). The Center argues that the PNL violates the constitutional rights of Alaskan minors to equal protection and privacy. In response to the Center's request for a preliminary injunction, Superior Court Judge John Suddock issued a partial injunction, allowing the notice provision to take effect, but prohibiting enforcement of many of the law's most burdensome requirements. The case went to trial in February of 2012.

In December of 2012, Judge Suddock issued an opinion upholding the parental notice requirement, but striking down a a provision allowing civil suits, a requirement that only the physician providing the abortion could provide the required notice, application of the law in circumstances where pregnancy loss was inevitable, and a requirement that minors seeking judicial bypass of the notice provision meet the clear and convincing, rather than preponderance of the evidence standard. In his opinion, Judge Suddock found that the PNL was not necessary to protect the health of minors or to protect immature minors, but upheld the law based on a finding that it might improve family cohesion in some circumstances. The Center appealed this ruling, and the Defendants have cross-appealed most of Judge Suddock's holdings that certain parts of the law are unconstitutional. The case is currently pending before the Alaska Supreme Court.

Read more about out pre-election challenge of the Parental Notification Law >

The Center