Roundup: Alaskans to Decide on Parental Notification Law While Governor Cuts Healthcare to Kids

Robin Marty

The Alaska Supreme Court decides that the signature gathering was not so flawed that the parental notification act can't go on the ballot, while the governor refuses to expand healthcare for women and pregnant children.

As we mentioned yesterday, Alaska Supreme Court has approved a ballot initiative that will ask voters of the state to decide on whether there should be a parental notification requirement when a minor requests an abortion. When signatures were gathered for the petition, key pieces of information about the actual law being proposed were left off, according to the Juneau Empire:

The measure’s ballot summary reads: “Abortion for Minor Requires Notice to or Consent from Parent or Guardian or Through Judicial Bypass.”

In March of this year, the Superior Court found that the summary was misleading because it omitted three pieces of information, most significantly that a doctor who failed to give the required notice to parents before performing an abortion on a minor could be charged with a felony.

Attorneys for the initiative sponsors and the state argued that flaws in the written summary on the ballot sign-up sheets were minor and could be corrected on the ballot.

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The state’s highest court agreed, ruling that any ballot deficiencies weren’t enough to make initiative sponsors begin the process anew.

Attorney General Dan Sullivan called the Supreme Court’s ruling “balanced,” and said the court concluded that few people who signed the petitions would have declined to do so if the information had not been omitted.

Interestingly enough, although the court made the final decision, very few of the justices actually participated in the case.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes largely from only two of the five justices, Dana Fabe and Craig Stowers. Justice Dan Winfree joined in part, but said the court did not have the right to place a flawed measure on the ballot when it failed to meet the legal standard for a ballot summary.

Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti and Justice Morgan Kristen did not participate.

However few were behind the judicial consensus, the Anchorage Daily News lauds the court ruling as both “right” and “cool-headed.”

The court responded with a cool-headed ruling on Wednesday that upheld state precedent giving citizen initiatives a wide latitude before striking them from the ballot.

Certainly the summary was deficient in not spelling out the penalties a doctor who does not follow parental notification rules might face. As Justice Daniel Winfree wrote in a partial dissent, a summary of regulation that does not include the penalties for violating that regulation is incomplete and by omission, misleading. This wasn’t a minor detail, but an important element of the law.

The court rightly decided that 36,000 valid signatures trumped deficiencies in the summary, and that voters knew what they were doing when they signed the petition to put parental notification on the ballot.

If there’s any doubt about that, remember that a signature is not a vote. Voters will decide the issue in August, and all the information they need will be available.

BOTTOM LINE: Court protects the initiative process, and in this case, there’s time to correct the flaws.

Meanwhile, the governor of Alaska has stated that he would rather have poor children and pregnant women be without any healthcare than open the possibility that some taxpayer money might end up going to abortion.

From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Gov. Sean Parnell has rejected lawmakers’ plan to expand eligibility for the Denali KidCare program, citing as justification his recent realization the program pays for abortions.

Parnell cut $2.9 million Thursday from the Legislature’s annual spending plans to halt the proposed expansion. Two-thirds would have come from the federal government with the remainder from state coffers.

The Legislature in April voted to expand the program to cover children and pregnant women from families with incomes up to twice the federal poverty level. That would have been an increase from 175 percent of the poverty level.

“I oppose expanding the government’s role in supporting abortion,” Parnell said Thursday of the budget cut. He said he will soon veto a related bill, Senate Bill 13.

Sponsors of the expansion had said the bill would open state health insurance to an additional 1,277 uninsured children and 225 pregnant women. Denali KidCare now covers 7,900 Alaska children.

The sponsors said this spring, as the bill crept through the Legislature, that Denali KidCare is inexpensive and that Alaska is one of a handful of states that doesn’t offer public health assistance for uninsured children at twice the poverty level.

Not that Republicans really needed an excuse to cut healthcare to children.  Even before he knew about the abortion funding, one Republican was prepared to vote against the expansion because “his opposition stemmed from a desire to encourage more individual financial responsibility among middle-income families.”

I hope none of those girls who can’t get access to an abortion don’t need health insurance for themselves or their new dependents.

Mini Roundup: South Carolina finally approved a budget right before the clock ran out, and the fight over whether taxpayers should pay for abortions for victims of rape and incest will continue next year.

June 3, 2010

GOP Sens. To Fight Defense Authorization Bill Over Abortion Provision – Medical News Today

Alaska Supreme Court says abortion initiative can appear on August ballot – Los Angeles Times

Spain’s Peoples Party to challenge abortion law – Spero News

Alaska high court OKs abortion initiative as-is – Juneau Empire

Senate committee backs amendment to allow abortions at military hospitals – DFW Catholic

Italian region to pay women not to have abortions – CNN International

The abortion debate today; placing the blame for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill … – Los Angeles Times

News in Brief: States Roll Back Abortions Rights and More … – truthout

Italian region offers financial incentives against abortion – Catholic Culture

SC House approves budget; abortion deal made – CNBC

Parnell, citing abortions, rejects Denali KidCare expansion – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Anti-Abortion Measures on the Upswing – TIME

Wis. AG: UW may be improperly funding abortions – Chicago Tribune

IPPF Report Calls for Youth Sex Rights and Reveals New UN Funding – Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute

Young feminists, where art thou?  – Toronto Star

Calif. GOP candidates targeted by Planned Parenthood – CNN Political Ticker

Billboard campaign on abortion draws attention and comment – WSAV-TV

EXCLUSIVE: Documents Show Kagan’s Liberal Opinion on Social Issues – CBS News

SC Legislature OKs final compromise on $5B budget – Lake Wylie Pilot

House approves budget plan – The State

State budget OK’d in 11th hour – Myrtle Beach Sun News

International Conference to Focus on Maternal, Infant Mortality – Voice of America

The Pill that changed the world turns 50 – newjerseynewsroom.com

How to Choose a Safe Birth Control Method: 11 Factors to Consider – U.S. News & World Report

More Than 40% of US Teens Have Had Sex – BusinessWeek

80% of Sexually Active Teens Use Some Type of Birth Control – The Teen Forum

HIV-Positive Women Are Not Getting Pregnancy Counseling – AIDSmeds.com HIV/AIDS Treatment News

June 4, 2010

Court says abortion initiative can be on AK ballot – Forbes

Our View: Right call – Anchorage Daily News

Ultrasound bill goes to House – 2TheAdvocate

Abortion doctor’s killer gets hearing on petition – NTV

Abortion Foes Hail Tennessee’s New ‘Friendly Climate’ – Nashville Scene

Michigan Woman Sues, Claims Doctor Forced Abortion After She Said Stop – ABC News

News Law and Policy

California Lawmakers Take Action Against Rampant Wage Theft

Nicole Knight

A survey of people who work for low wages found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the "wage theft capital of the country."

Los Angeles has earned the distinction as the country’s wage theft capital, but a new California law is tackling the rampant problem of wage theft with new enforcement tools.

The law, SB 1342, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), gives city and county authorities subpoena powers when investigating wage violations. Until now, the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement was the primary agency charged with investigating wage theft cases.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) authored the legislation to “ensure that our low-wage workers, who already face many challenges, receive the pay that they have earned,” Mendoza wrote in an Orange County Breeze op-ed.

Wage theft is the illegal practice of failing to pay overtime and minimum wages, denying lunch breaks, or forcing employees to work off the clock. A survey of people who work for low wages by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the “wage theft capital of the country.”

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Some 654,914 workers in L.A. County are subjected to at least one pay-based violation in any given week, researchers noted.

Most people who work low-wage jobs in L.A. were born outside the United States, and the majority are Latino (73.4 percent), Asian (17.9 percent), or Black (6.3 percent), researchers found.

Wage theft is not only illegal, it contributes to food insecurity and housing instability in low-income families, Mendoza noted.

“This bill protects hard-working Californians by clarifying the ability of cities and counties to investigate non-compliance with local wage laws,” Mendoza said.

A legislative analysis of SB 1342 cited research noting that minimum wage violations are rampant in industries such as garment manufacturing, domestic service, building services, and department stores, where wages are low.

The measure comes as states and cities are increasing minimum wages as lawmakers in Congress have refused to consider raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Brown in April signed a law lifting the statewide minimum pay rate to $15 per hour by 2022. More than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have proposed or enacted $15 minimum wage rates, according to the National Employment Law Project.

News Abortion

How Long Does It Take to Receive Abortion Care in the United States?

Nicole Knight

The national findings come amid state-level research in Texas indicating that its abortion restrictions forced patients to drive farther and spend more to end their pregnancies.

The first nationwide study exploring the average wait time between an abortion care appointment and the procedure found most patients are waiting one week.

Seventy-six percent of patients were able to access abortion care within 7.6 days of making an appointment, with 7 percent of patients reporting delays of more than two weeks between setting an appointment and having the procedure.

In cases where care was delayed more than 14 days, patients cited three main factors: personal challenges, such as losing a job or falling behind on rent; needing a second-trimester procedure, which is less available than earlier abortion services; or living in a state with a mandatory waiting period.

The study, “Time to Appointment and Delays in Accessing Care Among U.S. Abortion Patients,” was published online Thursday by the Guttmacher Institute.

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The national findings come amid state-level research in Texas indicating that its abortion restrictions forced patients to drive farther and spend more to end their pregnancies. A recent Rewire analysis found states bordering Texas had reported a surge in the number of out-of-state patients seeking abortion care.

“What we tend to hear about are the two-week or longer cases, or the women who can’t get in [for an appointment] because the wait is long and they’re beyond the gestational stage,” said Rachel K. Jones, lead author and principal research scientist with the Guttmacher Institute.

“So this is a little bit of a reality check,” she told Rewire in a phone interview. “For the women who do make it to a facility, providers are doing a good job of accommodating these women.”

Jones said the survey was the first asking patients about the time lapse between an appointment and procedure, so it’s impossible to gauge whether wait times have risen or fallen. The findings suggest that eliminating state-mandated waiting periods would permit patients to obtain abortion care sooner, Jones said.

Patients in 87 U.S. abortion facilities took the surveys between April 2014 and June 2015. Patients answered various questions, including how far they had traveled, why they chose the facility, and how long ago they’d called to make their appointment.

The study doesn’t capture those who might want abortion care, but didn’t make it to a clinic.

“If women [weren’t] able to get to a facility because there are too few of them or they’re too far way, then they’re not going to be in our study,” Jones said.

Fifty-four percent of respondents came from states without a forced abortion care waiting period. Twenty-two percent were from states with mandatory waits, and 24 percent lived in states with both a mandatory waiting period and forced counseling—common policies pushed by Republican-held state legislatures.

Most respondents lived at or below the poverty level, had experienced at least one personal challenge, such as a job loss in the past year, and had one or more children. Ninety percent were in the first trimester of pregnancy, and 46 percent paid cash for the procedure.

The findings echo research indicating that three quarters of abortion patients live below or around the poverty line, and 53 percent pay out of pocket for abortion care, likely causing further delays.

Jones noted that delays—such as needing to raise money—can push patients later into pregnancy, which further increases the cost and eliminates medication abortion, an early-stage option.

Recent research on Utah’s 72-hour forced waiting period showed the GOP-backed law didn’t dissuade the vast majority of patients, but made abortion care more costly and difficult to obtain.

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