Pro-choice advocates are skeptical that recent moves by state lawmakers will be successful in changing the Alaska Constitution to require parental consent for underage teenagers seeking abortions.
Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, who is backing the amendment along with 10 other lawmakers, said it would be more difficult than passing a law, so he is also exploring a bill that would rework the language of the law in a way that would satisfy the court's concerns.
"The benefit to that is that you could do it by a majority vote. (A constitutional amendment requires) a much higher bar to pass," Coghill said.
"I'd like to see it overturned, but there may be a way that I could work with their ruling and still have parents involved in that decision," he said.
The state Supreme Court issued a 3-2 decision in November that ended a 10-year battle over the Parental Consent Act passed by the Legislature in 1997.
The move was condemned by Republican Gov. Sarah Palin, who asked for a rehearing.
A constitutional amendment would require passage by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature and approval by voters through a referendum.
"I do not think there is enough support for a constitutional amendment because I feel Alaskans are pretty protective of the constitution," said Clover Simon, chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of Alaska, which successfully challenged the 1997 law.
Simon said in 2006 only one teenager came to their offices seeking an abortion without a parent. She said those that do choose not to involve their parents are often victims of abuse, and legislative efforts would be better spent on programs to encourage communication between youth and parents.
"We can't legislate parental involvement. Parents need to be involved with their teens' lives long before they are faced with an unintended pregnancy," Simon said.
"The most effective thing that prevents teen pregnancy is youth that feel connected and involved in their community, their school and their family. That's not as exciting to talk about as abortion. People don't get riled up about it," Simon said.
House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said her caucus does not have an official position on the issue, but she believes the court made the right decision.
"The court went on the right of privacy and it's something that Alaskans hold dear," Kerttula said, who added that the original law was quite contentious when it came before the Legislature. She said the issue is an emotional one for many lawmakers, but probably won't fetch the two-thirds majority needed.
"I think it probably wouldn't go as a constitutional amendment," Kerttula said.
Palin's spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the governor supports the constitutional amendment.
"She feels parental consent is reasonable because it is required in nearly every aspect of a child's life. It's a parent's right and responsibility to be involved in their child's life," Leighow said in an e-mail.
According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, 43 states restrict young women's access to abortion with a parental notice or consent. But of those states, seven had laws ultimately ruled to be unconstitutional or unenforceable, including Alaska.
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