Other members of clinic staffs can notify parents -- doctors don't have to do it themselves, even though the voter initiative required it. One witness testified that the process can take an hour or longer.
Parents who accompany a minor to the clinic must show proof of the relationship, such as a birth certificate, a requirement that also had been on hold.
In the 14 months that the law was in effect before the February trial, just nine minors went to court to bypass the notification requirement, Suddock said in his order. Eight petitions were granted and one teen withdrew her request.
Teens went to court because of "parents' strong religious beliefs, potential ostracism by a religious community, and a premonition of emotional abuse, ejection from the family home, or disinheritance," Suddock wrote, summarizing the testimony of the lawyer who represented the girls.
He found that the court process worked well.
An on-call magistrate is available any day of the year. While petition forms are hard to find on the Alaska Court System Web site, a Google search of "Alaska pregnant teen" goes to Planned Parenthood's Web site, which includes links, he wrote. Teens can fax, mail, or e-mail their petition, or bring it person. A lawyer with the Office of Public Advocacy will represent them. Hearings can be over the phone and all occurred within 48 hours of the petition being filed. Judges ruled immediately.
That's still a complicated, intimidating and stressful experience for teens, Simon said.
And even if parents are involved, the law's requirements can be a challenge in Alaska, according to situations recounted by Suddock.
One teenager from a village was approaching the end of her first trimester when she made an appointment for an abortion in Fairbanks. Alaska women seeking an elective abortion after that almost always must go to Seattle. She said her parents approved but were snowmachining in another village. Planned Parenthood's clinic manager in Fairbanks faxed a form to the other village, and the mother signed it in front of a notary.
Another girl, also days away from her second trimester, didn't want to tell her mother or go to court, and she didn't know her father's phone number. She eventually tracked it down, and the clinic was able to notify him 48 hours before her appointment -- just in time to comply with the law.
Medically speaking, abortions are safer than pregnancy, and there's no evidence of any medical benefit from parents being notified, Suddock wrote. Doctors who perform abortions testified that teen patients are able to give good medical histories.
In a few cases, the law may bring about more family communication, as evidenced by the girl who got in touch with her father, the judge said.
The new law "has a small but real upside; a small but real downside; an enormous symbolic significance to the adopting electorate; and the implicit approval of the Alaska Supreme Court," Suddock wrote.
Back in 2007, the state Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision struck down a law requiring parents to consent to a teen's abortion, but left room for a law requiring only notification.
Still, both Simon and Paton Walsh said they expected the ruling to be appealed. Simon said a firm decision on that hadn't yet been made.