Alaska Owes Nearly $1 Million in Legal Fees Over Failed Anti-Choice Crusade

Alaska joins a growing list of states where taxpayers are footing costly legal bills over failed anti-choice restrictions pushed by Republican legislators.

Alaska taxpayers are on the hook for $995,000 in legal fees for a lawsuit that found the state's Republican-supported parental notification measure unconstitutional. Jay Galvin / Flickr

Alaska taxpayers are on the hook for $995,000 in legal fees for a lawsuit that found the state’s Republican-supported parental notification measure unconstitutional.

The Alaska Supreme Court in July struck down the measure, which was enacted through a 2010 ballot initiative. Its sponsors included state Sen. Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) and Kim Hummer-Minnery, whose husband, as the Associated Press reported, heads the anti-choice group Alaska Family Council, an offshoot of Focus on the Family.

The measure required those younger than 18 to notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before receiving abortion care.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and two doctors had sued to block to law, and the Supreme Court held in July that the measure violates minors’ right to equal protection under the Alaska Constitution.

An October 17 Alaska Superior Court order requires “the state of Alaska [to] pay Plaintiffs the amount of $995,000 in full settlement of attorney’s fees and costs.”

Alaska joins a growing list of states where taxpayers are footing costly legal bills over failed anti-choice restrictions, as Rewire’s Imani Gandy recently reported.

Wisconsin, for example, owes Planned Parenthood $1.6 million in attorneys’ fees over a law—which the courts blocked—that would have required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. North Dakota is on the hook for nearly a quarter million dollars in legal fees over a GOP-led bill that would have outlawed abortion care when a fetal heartbeat is present. The courts also blocked that law, finding it unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Texas has spent upwards of $4.5 million in legal fees defending provisions of an onerous abortion law that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in June.

“This law was unconstitutional and harmful,” Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in an email to Rewire. “The truth is, some young women have faced dangerous circumstances and being forced to involve a parent in their reproductive health care decisions can be detrimental. This law would have prevented some of our most vulnerable teens from seeking medical care.”

In a 2012 study of Illinois minors subjected to that state’s parental notification law, teenagers reported feeling a diminished degree of autonomy, were concerned about physical and emotional abuse by their parents, and feared that they’d be forced to continue their pregnancies.

Thirty-eight states require some form of parental involvement in minors’ abortion care, according to the Guttmacher Institute, with 21 states requiring a minor to obtain at least one parent’s consent.