Monday, May 04, 2009

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin To Support A Ballot Measure To Restore Parental Consent Mandate For Teenage Abortions, Since HB35 Stalled In The Senate

After a little over two years, the Sarah Palin I voted for in the August 2006 Republican primary and again in the November 2006 general election is finally manifesting herself in full. Governor Palin is now acting more explicitly like the pro-life, pro-family social conservative originally marketed. The Governor intends to back a prospective ballot measure which would allow voters to bypass the legislature and make it illegal for teenagers to get an abortion without telling their parents. And the Governor volunteers to be the first to sign the petition.

Story also picked up by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (for the comments) and Conservatives4Palin. KTUU Channel 2 news video embedded below:

But mindful of the "ethics fascists" who are constantly on the prowl, looking for even the tiniest excuse to spam her with an "ethics complaint", Governor Palin, who briefly considered sponsoring the measure herself, decided otherwise after checking with the state's lawyers. "I got a preliminary opinion from Law (Department) just giving me a heads up that critics would certainly file an ethics charge against me if I were to sponsor an initiative. So though I maintain I have First Amendment rights just as any other citizen does, I won't flirt with the notion of giving critics more ammunition to keep filing wasteful ethics charges against me, but instead I'll volunteer to be the first signature," Palin said.

The initiative sponsors, including former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, former Anchorage school board candidate Mia Costello, and Kim Hummer-Minnery, who is the wife of Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery, applied last week to start gathering signatures. Specifically, the proposed measure, which is more precisely described as a "parental involvement initiative", would require parental "notice or consent" before a woman under 18 could have an abortion, unless the teen convinced a court otherwise or there was a medical emergency. There would have to be a 48-hour waiting period after the parent is notified -- but that could be waived if the parent gave consent for the abortion.

The sponsors can start collecting signatures once Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell certifies the ballot language as legal. The goal is to get the initiative on the ballot for the next primary election, which will be in August 2010. That would require the sponsors to gather at least 32,734 signatures before the legislative session starts in January 2010. And Jim Minnery believes it will be a piece of cake to get the required signatures, since he describes it as a parental rights initiative rather than an anti-abortion initiative. A KTUU Channel 2 "unscientific" poll taken late on May 4th strongly corroborates Minnery's opinion; this poll indicates that 77 percent of respondents would vote in favor of this initiative.

Other influential supporters will likely include Pastor Jerry Prevo of the Anchorage Baptist Temple and North Pole-area Pastor Rick Sikma, who ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator in 2008. Many other Evangelicals, as well as Mormons and Catholics, are likely to support the initiative as well.

On the other side of the fence, Planned Parenthood will oppose the initiative. Many teens come from unhealthy families and could take dangerous steps to avoid the consequences that would come from facing their parents, said Clover Simon, the Alaska vice president of Planned Parenthood. "I'm afraid that young women in that situation are going to see this and they're just not going to get any help at all and they are going to take things into their own hand. ... If you Google abortion or self-induced abortion you can get all kinds of bad advice," she said. But Ms. Simon produced no statistics showing if this is a widespread problem or not; generally, such cases of egregious abuse tend to be few and far between.

Triggering the initiative was legislative posturing, grandstanding, and obstructing. During the 2009 session, many lawmakers, mostly Democrats, were much more interested in sabotaging Governor Palin's nominees and outing anonymous bloggers than they were in doing the business of the people. As a result, only 61 out of 440 introduced bills passed, a total of 14 percent. And one of the 87 percent not passed was HB35, which would have required girls under 17 to tell their parents they're about to have an abortion. Although it passed in the House, it subsequently stalled in the Senate thanks to Sen. Bettye Davis' obstructionism. Senator Davis (D-East Anchorage), who chairs the Health Committee, claims the bill needs "more work".

But setting this whole process in motion was the infamous decision by the Alaska Supreme Court in November 2007, when by a 3-2 vote, they invalidated Alaska's parental consent law, claiming that it robbed a pregnant teen of her "constitutional right" to make such an important decision herself and transfers that right to her parents or a judge. But Chief Justice Dana Fabe, in the majority decision for the court, offered some wiggle room, suggesting that a law requiring parents to be notified but not necessarily give consent would probably pass judicial muster.

It's good to see Governor Palin playing offense as well as defense on social issues once again. It is illogical to deny parents control over teenage abortions when their consent is required before their teenagers can receive other non-emergency medical treatment. While the ballot measure is not the best way to enact such a law, legislative inaction makes it necessary.

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