Commentary: Teens should have choice about abortion

This editorial appeared in The Anchorage Daily News.

Gov. Sarah Palin and some conservative legislators are pushing a bill to require teenagers to get their parent's consent before having an abortion. We've been here before. The Alaska Supreme Court in 2007 declared such a law unconstitutional. It's still unconstitutional. Parents do not have the right to compel a daughter to abort a pregnancy. Neither do they have the right to compel a pregnant daughter to give birth. Pregnant teens should have ultimate control over the decision to bear a child or abort a pregnancy, just as much as any woman.

What has changed since the court's ruling only 16 months ago? One member of the Supreme Court left the job, and Gov. Palin appointed a replacement. She and other backers of HB 35, the abortion consent bill, are clearly hoping the court will disregard the earlier decision.

"Courts change their positions all the time," Palin said.

But just in case it still violates Alaska's Constitution to require parental consent, the bill also includes a provision that says parents must be notified. The court's 2007 ruling seemed to indicate that parental notification would be constitutional. The Supreme Court could strike down the consent provision but maintain parental notification, as Rep. John Coghill noted Thursday.

That might be a reasonable compromise. If the parents have their daughter's best interest at heart, notification can help teens in trouble. But why not just have a bill that does requires such notice, instead of one that gets into consent and contradicts the state constitution?

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.