Thursday, November 08, 2007

Senator Fred Dyson And Representative John Coghill To Craft Parental Consent Amendment To Circumvent Alaska Supreme Court Abortion Ruling

Two pro-life Alaska Republican state lawmakers are leading a push to change the Alaska Constitution so the state can require underage teenage girls to get parental consent to have an abortion. Full story published November 8th, 2007 in the Anchorage Daily News.

Representative John Coghill (R-North Pole) and Senator Fred Dyson (R-Eagle River) are among 10 members of the Alaska State Legislature (the other eight were not identified) who say the state Supreme Court erred in ruling that girls 16 and younger can get abortions without permission from their parents. They want to put the question before voters on next year's ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment. At least two-thirds of the House's 40 members and Senate's 20 members each must approve a resolution to get the proposed amendment on the ballot.

"What this court decision did was put the parents out of the loop when it comes to the care, protection, nurturing and decision-making of the child," Coghill (pictured above left) said Wednesday at a news conference. "The Legislature did everything it could to protect the privacy of a young child getting pregnant".

Fred Dyson (pictured at left) also sounded off. "Parents must be able to control the medical care their children get," Dyson said. "Aside from how you view the abortion issue, this denigration of parental rights is absolutely unacceptable".

However, Clover Simon, head of Planned Parenthood of Alaska, claims that it is rare that a teen seeks an abortion without parental involvement. "The reality is, almost every single teen we've seen come to Planned Parenthood for abortion services, are coming with a parent," Simon said. "The laws are not going to fix the problem of parent-child communication". Simon suggests that lawmakers should focus on more pressing priorities -- ethics reform, oil taxes and future construction of a natural gas pipeline -- and let the Supreme Court's ruling stand. However, her counsel is actually redundant, because the lawmakers are currently engrossed in a special seesion over oil taxes, so there'll be no time to address the abortion issue until the start of the next regular legislative session in January.

The 3-2 decision rendered by the Alaska Supreme Court last Friday (November 2nd) ended a 10-year battle over the Parental Consent Act passed by the Legislature in 1997. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Dana Fabe, said the law "places a burden on minors' fundamental right to privacy". However, Chief Justice Fabe said a measure requiring parental notification, but not consent, would probably pass constitutional muster. In the dissent, Justice Walter Carpeneti wrote, "(Society has long-standing and pervasive interests in protecting children from their own immaturity." More details in this post.

Click HERE to view the 47-page Supreme Court decision in PDF format.

And Governor Sarah Palin will support the lawmakers. Last Friday, she called the Supreme Court ruling "outrageous" and directed Attorney General Talis Colberg to file a request for a rehearing. Governor Palin supports putting the parental consent question on the ballot.

What might a parental consent amendment look like? The Alaska Family Council has produced a draft amendment, as follows:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of this constitution, the legislature may, to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States, grant to a minor child's parent or legal guardian either the right to consent or the right to be notified before a person may provide an abortion to the child".

According to NARAL, 25 states currently have constitutionally-upheld parental consent abortion laws, while 16 states have consitutionally-upheld parental notification laws. Click HERE to find out where YOUR state stands.

Here's one state law that's held firm. In Idaho last spring, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed into law a bill requiring minor girls to get permission from a parent or guardian for an abortion. Teens can bypass their parents and received a judge's approval in cases such as incest, abuse or a medical emergency. Perhaps a consent law with those exceptions may pass Dana Fabe's scrutiny.

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