Closing Arguments Presented in Parental Notification Initiative Challenge
Ruling expected in two to three weeks
ANCHORAGE - Concluding a 14-day trial, lawyers gave their closing arguments today in the superior court case concerning the requirement for parental notification before a minor can have an abortion.
The parental notification law came from a ballot initiative that was approved by voters.
It is now being challenged by Planned Parenthood, a provider of abortion and other pregnancy-related services.
Judge John Suddock asked the organization's attorney why the will of the voters should be thwarted.
"We don't want our kids to protect us from our own heartbreak. We don't want them to overestimate our hostile reaction. At the end of the day, we're going to be there for them and we want in on this decision. That's a pretty forceful conclusion by the electorate, seemingly," Suddock said.
"The Alaska Supreme Court has made it clear that initiatives don't get – certainly not a free pass – but they're subject to the same scrutiny as legislatively, laws passed by the legislature," said Janet Crepps, the attorney for Planned Parenthood.
The state Department of Law is defending the ballot initiative, just as it would any law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.
"It's doing the work it's required to do. And it is not doing any harm… All the harms and the speculations that were out there at the beginning of this litigation, none of them have manifested themselves. There hasn't been delay, girls haven't been pushed into a second trimester abortion, they haven't gone to Seattle as a result of this law – there is no evidence of that," said Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh.
Planned Parenthood argues that the law improperly distinguishes between girls seeking abortions and girls who intend to see their pregnancies through, thus violating the equal protection clause of the constitution.
"There is also no basis on which to distinguish abortion from carrying to term based on health considerations. And i think key findings here are that the physical and psychological risks of abortion are not greater than the physical and psychological risks of carrying to term," Crepps said.
And there's a third party in the case: the people that drafted the citizens initiative that was passed by voters in 2010.
Attorney Kevin Clarkson emphasized testimony in the trial that with two-thirds of 16-year-old girls who get pregnant, the men involved on average are six years older.
"By definition, that's sexual assault,” Clarkson said. “So because of the secrecy in which the abortion can occur, the state's interests are heightened, if not compelling – I believe they're compelling – to justify the state's requirement of parental notice at that early stage of the pregnancy if the girl's direction is abortion. Because abortion is the escape valve for the sexual predator."
Now it's up to the judge to sort it all out. Suddock said he hopes to rule within two to three weeks.
All sides expect the case to go to the Alaska Supreme Court thereafter.