Petition draws controversy over law and abortion

In the state of Alaska girls 13 and over can have an abortion without their parents’ consent. A recent citizen’s initiative approved to continue on as a petition by Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell aims to change this law. However, it has sparked debate over the initiative’s legitimacy.

Students For Life, a club on campus since spring 2008 , released a flyer on Oct. 12 stating “Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Alaska are advocating against your constitutional rights by trying to prevent Alaskan’s from having the option of signing [this] petition.”

Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell received the citizen’s initiative on May 6. The Parental Involvement Initiative, as it was titled, states “before an abortion is knowingly performed or induced on a pregnant . . . woman under 18 years of age, notice or consent has been given . . . or a court has authorized the minor to proceed with the abortion.”

The notice or consent must come from a minor’s legal guardian or custodian at least 48-hours prior to the abortion.

It is a citizen’s right to create initiatives. After submission and approval of these initiatives by the governor, they become petitions that must be signed by voters in at least 30 voting districts. This petition is then re-submitted to the governor and after verifying that it is sufficient it is prepared for the ballot.

The Parental Notification Petition is now in circulation. However, Planned Parenthood and ACLU of Alaska have recognized sections in the initiative that, they argue, “fail to comply with restrictions” set on initiatives by the Alaska Constitution. Restrictions stating an initiative must not “create courts, define jurisdiction of courts or prescribe their rules.” If an initiative does this, it is not valid for approval by the lieutenant governor.

The ACLU argues that the Parental Involvement Initiative was wrongly approved by Lt. Gov. Campbell, and therefore, is not valid as a petition.

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“We believe the Constitution means what it says,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU of Alaska.

“[They] are infringing on our rights as citizens to come together and bring an issue up to vote,” said Paige Tiede, president of the Students for Life club. “It is absolutely ridiculous.”

Planned Parenthood has put forth a memorandum in support of an injunction of the initiative. In addition to changing court rules, Planned Parenthood argues that the initiative “fails to comply with the standards set forth in the Alaska Constitution,” specifically, that it should be “presented clearly and honestly to the people of Alaska.” The text of the initiative is scattered with bold words, underlined words and words in brackets conflicting with what has already been stated. Planned Parenthood observes in their memorandum that “nowhere in the text of the initiative is the significance of [this] explained.”

If Planned Parenthood’s arguments are deemed valid, the lieutenant governor will have wrongly approved the initiative. According to the memorandum, the office of the attorney general reviewed the initiative prior to him.

As it stands, the initiative is in circulation. The flyer by Students For Life lists four facts and one myth. Two facts state that ACLU and Planned Parenthood are “working against your right to a citizen’s initiative” and the Parental Notification Petition will be in circulation until Oct. 20. Another fact states that girls who are required to get parental notification to take an aspirin in junior high are able to get an abortion without parental consent.

The last fact reads, “Planned Parenthood and sexual predators both want young girls to be able to have abortions and access to all types of contraception without her parent’s knowledge or consent.”

“To state that Planned Parenthood wants the same thing as sex predators is offensive,” said Mittman, “Planned Parenthood is in schools and the community keeping teens safe.”

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