Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock rejected efforts by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest to block a state law requiring abortion clinics to notify parents two days before performing an abortion on a minor from going into effect Tuesday.
Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery is happy that the core part of the legislation was preserved but expressed disappointment with cuts he believes will weaken the bill. The pro-life activist said the state judge took the "teeth out" of the newly enacted parental notification laws.
According to court reports, Suddock dropped provisions in the law calling for a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to five years for abortion doctors who neglected to contact a minor's parents or guardians.
He also struck down a section that would mandate minors, younger than 18 years old, seeking a court exception to the parental notification law to give specific evidence of abuse.
"We totally opposed his decision to neuter or take the teeth from the law by eliminating all the legal civil penalties for violating the law," declared Minnery.
The law stipulates that abortion practitioners must notify a youth's parents at minimum 48 hours prior to performing the procedure and obtain permission. However, without a penalty, Minnery is worried that abortionists can easily violate the law and neglect to notify parents.
He contended that it is reasonable to include a penalty to the notification law. "Every state that has parental notification has a civil penalty attached [to the legislation]," he stated.
Alaska is the 35th state to require some kind of parental notification or consent to obtain an abortion.
The law also provides a judicial by-pass where teens from abusive families can go before a judge to obtain permission.
Minors who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused by a parent, guardian or custodian would have been required to provide signed and notarized documentation from a person from the family, health or social services departments or law enforcement proving that the abuse occurred.
Last month, PPGNW officials sued the state to stop the notification law from being enacted. PPGNW operates five clinics in Alaska as well as clinics in Idaho and Washington. PPGNW Vice President Clover Simon insisted that the law was an invasion of privacy that violates the equal protection clause.
In a Dec. 10 hearing, PPGNW attorney Janet Crepps asserted that the law violated minors' rights because it singled out abortion as the only medical care related to pregnancy that requires parental involvement.
Suddock did not place an injunction on required parental consent as Crepps advocated. However, he did eliminate the need for teens to present documentation for a court exception.
With Suddock's changes, Minnery laments that minors will get by in the courts without little more than an anecdotal explanation.
This judgment violates the wishes of Alaskan voters, he noted, and is an example of "an activist judge trying to legislate from the bench. "
The Alaska Family Council plans to work with the state's attorney general to ask the state supreme court to take a second look at the judgment.