ANCHORAGE - For the second time, Alaska's highest court is taking a look at a law requiring parental consent for girls under 17 to get an abortion.
The law was passed in 1997 but never went into effect. It has been in limbo since Planned Parenthood challenged it as a violation of the equal rights and privacy of pregnant teens.
The legal fight is over whether parents have a right to know their daughter is pregnant, even if she doesn't want them to know, and whether they can veto an abortion.
In 2003, Superior Court Judge Sen Tan found that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting presumably immature minors from making harmful decisions about pregnancy and health treatment. But he said the present law is unnecessarily restrictive.
The state appealed that decision.
The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed interested in the possibility of a less restrictive law that both sides could accept. Several justices asked whether a law would work that simply required notification of parents, without giving them veto power.
Lawyer Kevin Clarkson, representing the state, argued the present law is not overly restrictive. It contains a judicial bypass clause that allows any minor to get a judge's permission for an abortion, if she doesn't want to accept her parents' decision, Clarkson said.
In other states offering this option, judges almost always go along with the minor's decision, he said.
If the justices find the Alaska statute too restrictive, 15 states require only notification of parents about an impending abortion. That would certainly be constitutional, Clarkson argued.
Janet Crepps, the attorney for Planned Parenthood, argued against any kind of law. She asked the judges why should teens who choose to have an abortion be more legally restricted than teens who choose to have a baby? She also said requiring a pregnant 15-year-old to go through a judicial proceeding just adds to the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy.
Justice Warren Matthews said a law treating all pregnant teens equally would require notification to parents that their daughter was pregnant and needed permission to carry the baby to term.
Pushed by the justices for an opinion on the constitutionality of a simple parental notification law, as opposed to one requiring consent, Crepps said it might be constitutional elsewhere but not in Alaska with its special guarantee of privacy for its citizens.
Alaska's high court looks at parental consent law
Justices to consider loosening restrictions
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FAIRBANKS - The U.S. House Resources Committee has approved language that would allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, clearing the way for the proposal to be placed in a national energy bill that could come to the House floor next week.
The Resources Committee upheld the ANWR drilling proposal Wednesday on a 30-13 vote after a debate so familiar that each side joked over their disagreements between barbs.
The committee's action officially launches a second legislative track for ANWR drilling.
The Senate laid down the first track last month when it approved language in the annual budget resolution that could later ease passage of drilling legislation. Most observers have said the Senate's budget track offers the most likely path to success because it would bypass filibusters that have stopped ANWR drilling in the past.
The House energy bill, in contrast, could face a filibuster in the Senate if it contains the ANWR language.
Activists on both sides of the issue gathered in the House committee room to watch the proceedings closely. Jerry Hood, a lobbyist with the pro-drilling group Arctic Power, said he was looking for votes in committee and next week on the floor to demonstrate strong support.
"One could say that next week's vote is symbolic, but certainly we have two chances through the dual process," he said.
Brian Moore, legislative director for the Alaska Wilderness League, said drilling advocates still have a battle.
"The Arctic (refuge) is moving on two tracks in Congress and I'm confident that a bipartisan majority of people will come together and stop it," he said.
Debate in the committee focused on an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to strip ANWR drilling approval from the bill brought forward by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., the chairman. Markey's amendment failed.
Markey said it's "a shame we don't have a split screen" so members of the Resources Committee could watch their Republican colleagues on a separate committee vote unanimously against tightening fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. Without such tightening, the nation's oil consumption will continue to increase, he said.
"They need to find a new gas station, so they come over to the House Resources Committee and say, 'We want to build that gas station on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,"' Markey said.
Republicans blame Democrats for the energy crisis, he said.
"Ladies and gentlemen, only if you turn off the other screen can you make that argument," he said. "You've just seen the hypocrisy coefficient enter historic levels."
Republicans focused on the economic and security benefits of pumping domestic oil, regardless of how far a gallon of it would push a car.
"This is America's oil. It's not Alaska's oil," said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. "We are not the only buyers on this block anymore. When the Chinese prime minister of energy went to Venezuela, to (President Hugo) Chavez, and said 'We want to buy your oil,' it drove the price of oil (up) $8 overnight.
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