(REVISED 5.23.2018) 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.
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: Susan Orlansky, 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.
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.
Court. The Court heard oral argument on February 19, 2014. On July 22, 2016, the Court ruled that the law violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and struck down the requirement. The State of Alaska was subsequently ordered to pay $995,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.