Parental Notification Initiative to Appear on the Alaska Ballot
On Wednesday, the Alaska State Supreme Court ruled that a parental notification initiative will appear on the Alaska primary ballot in August. The validity of the initiative, which would require parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion, was challenged in court by Planned Parenthood. If enacted, the parental notification law would include a judicial bypass provision. A parental consent law was overturned by the Alaska State Supreme Court in 2007.
Planned Parenthood argued that the petition process for the initiative was flawed and contained omissions that could have misled the more than 32,000 voters who signed the petition according to the Associated Press. According to the Anchorage Daily News, approximately 47,000 signatures were submitted, well above the legal requirement of 32,734.
The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that "Although the petition summary in this case was deficient and misleading by omission, it was not as misleading as [other petitions] and petition-signer inadvertence was unlikely or minimal in this case. The petition summary's omissions did not substantially misrepresent the essential nature of the [initiative]." The court also found that the sponsors of the initiabve would experience "great" hardship if the signatures were invalidated because "the sponsors here have already expended a significant amount of time and resources to gather all of the required signatures" and that opponents of the initiative would experience "little hardship...if the corrected summary is allowed to be used as the ballot summary."
Associate Justice to the Alaska Supreme Court, Daniel Winfree, wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. He wrote, "no initiative should be presented on an election ballot if it has not met the existing constitutional and statutory screening standards. If an initiative petition summary used to gather signatures is not legally acceptable, the initiative should be barred from the ballot and a new petition circulated with an accurate and impartial summary…Because the petition summary in this case was not legally acceptable, I would bar the initiative from the ballot."
Opponents of parental notification or consent laws restricting abortion access argue that these laws endanger young women who may resort to unsafe abortion methods in order to bypass parental involvement. A 2009 report (see PDF) from NARAL Pro-Choice America states, "Mandatory parental-involvement (consent and notice) laws do not solve the problem of inadequate family communication; they only exacerbate a potentially dangerous situation. In some circumstances, teens facing a crisis pregnancy feel compelled to travel to another state where there is a less stringent parental-involvement law or no such law at all, to avoid involving their parents and maintain their privacy. In the most dire of circumstances, some pregnant young women who fear telling their parents may resort to illegal or self-induced abortions that may result in death."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .