Alaska abortion notification law takes effect

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Parents of girls under the age of 18 seeking an abortion in Alaska must be notified, under a new law that took effect on Tuesday after a state judge rejected arguments against it.

The law, passed by voters in August, was crafted after the state courts overturned more sweeping parental-consent legislation.

It went into effect after State Superior Court Judge John Suddock on Monday rejected arguments from abortion-rights advocates seeking to block the new law.

In his order, he said the state had an interest in promoting communication between pregnant minors and their families.

The state Supreme Court found in 2007 that parental notification probably was constitutional, he said.

“The voters of this state undoubtedly have a profound interest that the parental notification initiative take effect immediately,” Suddock wrote.

While he let the law go into effect, Suddock struck down provisions that would have imposed penalties on doctors -- fines of up to $1,000 and jail sentences of up to five years -- and imposed civil liability on them.

“The initiative subjects doctors and their personnel to daunting civil and criminal liability disproportionate to the measure’s public health implications,” Suddock wrote. “It threatens to drive practitioners and new physicians out of public-health services.”

The judge also struck some notification protocols in the law that he said “are arduous and bureaucratic.”

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and two Alaska doctors sued in November to block the law from going into effect, claiming it violated the privacy of pregnant teens.

Although Suddock declined to issue a preliminary injunction against the new law, he said he will continue to consider the merits of the lawsuit challenging it.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune