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Judge Hears Arguments on Parental Notification Law

September 08, 2011|By Ashton Goodell | Channel 2 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A judge is deciding whether to strike down a law requiring doctors to notify parents if their teen asks for an abortion.

Under the statute doctors could face criminal punishment for not telling parents in time to act.

The state claims some of Planned Parenthood's arguments could never win at trial and asked the judge to give a summary judgment on those points, but Planned Parenthood says it should still be heard.

In oral arguments Thursday the attorney for Planned Parenthood, Janet Crepps, said Alaska's statute isn't like other parental notification laws around the country -- it's much harsher.

“Parental interests are already well-protected here, that's what the whole statute is about parental notification. The state does not further its interests by additionally burdening minors who wish to take part in the judicial bypass system,” Crepps said.

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Planned Parenthood claims the law is too vague, but the state claims it's specific enough, saying any ambiguity wouldn't create problems for doctors trying to adhere to the law.

“The law is very clear,” Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh said. “It's not that difficult. There's no basis that prosecutors are going to be out there nitpicking everything that a doctor does in order to prosecute them. And without that you shouldn't strike this law down as being unconstitutionally vague.”

The law is supposed to protect minors from their own immaturity and ensure parental involvement in abortion decisions.

Planned Parenthood claims the law discriminates against women and rural communities.

“It's important that the Alaska courts should be extremely vigilant in this area in order to ensure that laws impacting only women are not based on outdated paternalistic views or competence as decision makers,” Crepps said.

“The law targets a specific medical procedure, and while that medical procedure will only ever be needed by woman that does not make the law discriminatory,” Paton-Walsh argued.

The state told the judge it’s trying to simplify the case for trial by bringing forward the motion for summary judgment.

Planned Parenthood says the state is unfairly dissecting their argument by getting a judgment on individual issues.

The judge will make a decision sometime before the end of September.

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