Gov. Sarah Palin and some conservative legislators are pushing a bill to require teenagers to get their parent's consent before having an abortion. We've been here before. The Alaska Supreme Court in 2007 declared such a law unconstitutional. It's still unconstitutional. Parents do not have the right to compel a daughter to abort a pregnancy. Neither do they have the right to compel a pregnant daughter to give birth. Pregnant teens should have ultimate control over the decision to bear a child or abort a pregnancy, just as much as any woman.
What has changed since the court's ruling only 16 months ago? One member of the Supreme Court left the job, and Gov. Palin appointed a replacement. She and other backers of HB 35, the abortion consent bill, are clearly hoping the court will disregard the earlier decision.
"Courts change their positions all the time," Palin said.
But just in case it still violates Alaska's Constitution to require parental consent, the bill also includes a provision that says parents must be notified. The court's 2007 ruling seemed to indicate that parental notification would be constitutional. The Supreme Court could strike down the consent provision but maintain parental notification, as Rep. John Coghill noted Thursday.
That might be a reasonable compromise. If the parents have their daughter's best interest at heart, notification can help teens in trouble. But why not just have a bill that does requires such notice, instead of one that gets into consent and contradicts the state constitution?
Supporters of the parental consent provision over-dramatize the extent that the issue even arises.
Gov. Palin, for example, said during the news conference that "... it's not right for Alaskans to have a wedge driven between children and their parents." That's not the way it is -- children with supportive parents can and do involve them in the decision. Lack of parental consent, in fact, is an issue affecting only a tiny handful of Alaska teens. Last year only four girls 16 and younger got abortions in the Anchorage clinic of Planned Parenthood without the involvement of their parents, according to Clovis Simon, the group's Alaska VP.
The few teens who made the decision without their parents may well have had good reasons for not telling Mom or Dad. The sad truth is that too many parents are addicts, abusers, alcoholics or simply poor parents. Giving them control over the abortion decision might well inject worse judgment than that of a 16-year-old.
No teen goes into the decision blind, whether or not parents are part of it. Alaska law requires that all women seeking an abortion be informed about the pros and cons and review a state Web site that covers a range of issues from fetal development to finances.
The parental consent bill introduced by Coghill does include a way for a teenager who doesn't want to tell her parents to get consent through a court process. That puts too much burden on a young person already in crisis. It drags the court system and lawyers into what should be an intensely personal and private decision.
Gov. Palin and some conservative legislators are trying to skirt the Alaska Constitution so they can show their personal opposition to abortion. That's a bad decision.
BOTTOM LINE: Alaska's constitution says pregnant teens have a right to decide on abortion. The Legislature and governor should not be trying to find a way around it.
Who's up / Who's down
DOWN -- BP Alaska: State slams North Slope operator for explosion last year. BP contrite. Any good news from oil patch north?
DOWN -- GOP's Bobby Jindal: Republican made no friends in red-state Alaska with shot about volcano monitoring. Better vet the script next time, Bobby.
EVEN -- Gov. Sarah: She'll pay back state for some family travel. But hey -- she'd never have blasted volcano funding.
DOWN -- Gov. Sarah: Lawmakers ever so politely tell the Belle not to whine about stimulus money -- they intend to spend it all, and Uncle Sam says they can.
UP -- Nome: The town at the end of the Iditarod Trail gets $152 million in stimulus money for new hospital. It's good as gold to be shovel-ready.
UP -- Kikkan Randall: Silver medal in Nordic World Ski Championships, a first for American women. She looks like a natural on that victory stand, doesn't she?
UP -- Sebastian Schnuelle: Whitehorse musher -- by way of Germany -- wins Yukon Quest by four minutes, then and gracefully says penalized rival Hugh Neff won the race. Champion in more ways than one.
UP -- Skylar Webb: Tok lad sets state basketball scoring record with 74 points in a single game. Jordanesque. Keep shootin', kid.
DOWN -- Homer's eagles: New ordinance means no more meal ticket on the Spit. Purists say feeding eagles violates rules of nature. Ever seen what an eagle eats? There are no rules.
UP -- Anchorage drivers : Acting Mayor Claman aims stimulus money at Midtown traffic jam. If Obama bucks bust bottleneck at Lake Otis and Tudor, Anchorage may go Democratic.