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 –

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 – 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

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