Alaska Ballot Initiative Targets Minors

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Alaska Ballot Initiative Targets Minors

Kathleen Reeves

For some girls, parental notification is not an option. Self-induced abortion is.

Palin would have liked to sponsor Alaska’s new ballot initiative requiring girls under 18 to notify a parent before having an abortion. When she found out that probably wouldn’t be appropriate, she met the challenge with her trademark “Us vs. Them” spirit that allowed her to rise to brief, stunning popularity with a rhetoric of insults, sarcasm, and nastiness.

"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.

Actually, Palin, this is not about you—it’s inappropriate for a Governor to sponsor a ballot initiative, and please don’t pretend you didn’t already know that.

Later, she casts herself as a martyr for the girls whose rights she’d like to take away:

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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“I acknowledge the ‘new normal’ we’re dealing with today will no doubt see someone filing a charge against me anyway, for exercising my First Amendment rights as a citizen, but I will not hesitate to speak up in support of Alaska’s daughters.”

And I acknowledge that the “new normal” Americans are dealing with today requires us to tolerate politicians who use their poisonous, disruptive personalities to turn issues debates into Roman circuses.

Two years ago, Alaska’s Supreme Court declared a parental consent bill unconstitutional. The sponsors of the ballot initiative, including a former Governor and the wife of the Alaska Family Council’s president, hope to get around this through a ballot initiative, the favored method of interest groups who want to take away the rights of others. They’ve also expanded the language: while the failed bill required consent, this initiative would require notification only. But what does notification achieve?

Proponents of this initiative know what it achieves, and that’s why it’s on the initiative. They know that notification will deter some girls from having legal abortions—those who would rather die than let their parents know they’re having sex; those whose parents are staunchly pro-life; or those who don’t communicate or even live with their parents. For those in the first category, pregnancy is just as telling as an abortion, so it’s not hard to predict what will come if this initiative passes, and what always happens when abortion rights are taken away. Clover Simon, the Vice President of Planned Parenthood of Alaska, says,

"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[s]. … If you Google abortion or self-induced abortion you can get all kinds of bad advice," she said.

For some girls—did I mention victims of incest?—parental notification is not an option. Self-induced abortion is. Women have practiced this method whenever they were not able to obtain abortions legally, and many of them paid for it with their lives.

Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council, says,

“It is not an anti-abortion initiative as it will be positioned. It’s basically a parental rights initiative.”

Kind of like how Proposition 8 was not an anti-gay initiative, but rather a heterosexual rights initiative. (Prop 8’s website also urges supporters to “protect California’s children.”)

Alaska’s initiative is a typical anti-choice tactic: one that doesn’t help women prevent pregnancy, but punishes them after they’ve become pregnant. Children grow up to be healthier adults when their parents are included in their lives and decisions. But this initiative does nothing to improve communication between parents and their children—it simply forces it in a situation in which it may not be possible.