Parental consent bill sponsor ready to deal

ABORTION: Coghill says he'll support requirement for notification instead.

April 13, 2009 

JUNEAU -- Backers of a bill to require parental consent before a girl under 17 could get an abortion say they will compromise and settle for parental notification.

State Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, told the Senate Health and Social Services Committee on Monday that he was willing to remove consent provisions included in the bill already passed by the House.

Gov. Sarah Palin also has agreed to back the revised measure. "I have to say at this point, knowing that there are just days left in the session, the compromise bill still allows parents to have involvement in an issue that is life-changing for their child, so I can support that compromise bill," Palin said Friday.

"It's not what we had hoped for but it is what we would settle on at this point," she said.

Coghill's bill was modeled on the 1997 Parental Consent Act struck down by the Alaska Supreme Court in 2007.

Justices said the state has a compelling interest in protecting the health of minors and in fostering family involvement. However, the 1997 law did not strike the proper constitutional balance between the state's interest and the girls' fundamental right to privacy, Chief Justice Dana Fabe concluded.

Coghill said he tried to draft a bill that was less restrictive in protecting a minor's choice but still accounted for the state's compelling interest in having parents assist in the decision.

"It's the balance between the constitutional right of a young minor child and their freedom of choice and the right of parents to guide the youngster's decisions for all ranges of issues," he said.

Justices, he said, were prescriptive in their opinion.

"In fact, it looks to me like they had in their mind what they wanted, and they went and wrote their opinion to it," he said.

Getting parental consent through the House was an uphill battle, he said. The prospects in the Senate were even more dim.

"I knew, in counting the votes, that I was going to have trouble," he said.

The HSS Committee, chaired by Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, held the bill Monday to collect public testimony later in the week. Davis made it clear that Coghill had come to her to ask for a substitute measure.

Coghill said the measure is aimed at minors in loving families. It protects minors from predators and abusers who might intimidate them into an abortion, he said. If the parent is the abuser, the girl can avoid notification.

"At least the notification is a safeguard," Coghill said. "To me, any safeguard is better than what we've got."

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