November 4, 2007
Minors' Right to Privacy Upheld: Alaska Parental Consent Act Deemed Unconstitutional
Last Friday, in Alaska v. Planned Parenthood of Alaska, a sharpy divided Alaska Supreme Court voted down the state's Parental Consent Act as in violation of the state constitutional right to privacy. The Alaska Legislature passed the Act in 1997, prompting a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood. The PCA required girls 16 years old and younger to get a parent's permission to receive an abortion.
Despite the state's undeniably compelling interest in protecting the health of minors and in fostering family involvement in a minor's decisions regarding her pregnancy, and though, as the court said, the constitution indeed permits a statutory scheme which ensures that parents are notified so that they can be engaged in their daughters' important decisions in these matters, given the state's explicit privacy right -- "broader in scope" and "more robust" than the implied federal right to privacy -- "the Act does not strike the proper constitutional balance."
The court found that "included within the broad scope of the Alaska Constitution's privacy clause is the fundamental right to reproductive choice," something that is "in no way peculiar to adult women."
"Ultimately, because the PCA shifts the right to reproductive choice to minors' parents, we must conclude that the PCA is, all else being held equal, more restrictive than a parental notification statute."
The dissenting justices found the PCA narrowly tailored and the least restrictive alternative to advance the compelling state interest in protecting children against their own immaturity and protecting parents' constitutional right -- and duty -- to guide their children to maturity.