Legislature(2007 - 2008)CAPITOL 120

01/21/2008 01:00 PM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 301 - PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION                                                                                               
2:03:17 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE   BILL  NO.   301,  "An   Act  relating   to  partial-birth                                                               
2:03:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WES KELLER, Alaska  State Legislature, speaking as                                                               
one of the bill's joint prime  sponsors, indicated that HB 301 is                                                               
tailored to meet  the intent of federal law; that  it defines the                                                               
term,  "partial-birth  abortion"  using [some  of]  the  language                                                               
currently in federal  law; and that 36  states currently restrict                                                               
partial-birth  abortions,   which  have  been   characterized  as                                                               
inhumane and brutal.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL,  speaking as  one  of  the bill's  joint                                                               
prime sponsors,  offered his understanding  that the  language in                                                               
federal law  has been considered  by the U.S. Supreme  Court, and                                                               
that existing Alaska law  restricting partial-birth abortions has                                                               
not been  enforced.   House Bill  301 will  help Alaska  meet the                                                               
federal court's  standard and put  Alaska's law in  the forefront                                                               
again,  and though  that  could lead  to  challenges, he  opined,                                                               
[adoption of  HB 301] still  constitutes good public policy.   He                                                               
noted that members' packets contain one proposed amendment.                                                                     
2:07:56 PM                                                                                                                    
KAREN  LEWIS, Alaska  Right to  Life, first  relayed that  Alveda                                                               
King,  the niece  of Martin  Luther  King, Jr.,  was the  keynote                                                               
speaker at  her organization's 2007 Proudly  Pro-Life Dinner last                                                               
November and told  participants that had her uncle  been alive he                                                               
would  have  spoken  against  "the   injustices  that  are  being                                                               
inflicted  on the  unborn children  in our  nation" and  that she                                                               
believes abortion  is the  present-day human  rights issue.   Ms.                                                               
Lewis said it is difficult for  her to understand why and how the                                                               
nation continues to allow the  "brutal and merciless slaughter of                                                               
our  most precious  resource -  our children."   She  offered her                                                               
understanding that a little over  150 years ago, the U.S. Supreme                                                               
Court  deemed African  Americans as  not being  fully human,  and                                                               
that Native  Americans were  systematically slaughtered  with tax                                                               
funds; thus  she is not  very surprised  to "see what's  going on                                                               
now  with the  killing of  our  babies."   She noted  that as  of                                                               
tomorrow, Roe v. Wade will have  been in effect for 35 years, and                                                             
offered  her  understanding  that  about  50  million  "pre-born"                                                               
children  have been  killed at  the  hands of  their mothers  and                                                               
hired abortionists.  In conclusion,  she said she appreciates the                                                               
[committee   hearing]  HB   301  "as   a  very   good  piece   of                                                               
2:10:10 PM                                                                                                                    
SIDNEY HEIDERSDORF,  President, Alaskans for Life,  Inc., relayed                                                               
that his organization  supports HB 301 as well as  all efforts to                                                               
bring  Alaska  statutes in  line  with  abortion restrictions  as                                                               
permitted by the courts.  He added:                                                                                             
     We  are  opposed to  partial-birth  abortion  - it's  a                                                                    
     gruesome, horrifying  procedure.  However, this  is not                                                                    
     why we  oppose it.   We  oppose it  because it  kills a                                                                    
     baby.    And  there  is no  moral  difference,  really,                                                                    
     between   a  partial-birth   abortion  and   any  other                                                                    
     abortion.   What sets  partial-birth abortion  apart is                                                                    
     that it's a  procedure which is so  horrifying that ...                                                                    
     you  would  have  rights to  hope  that  even  abortion                                                                    
     supporters  would condemn  it.    Simply reflecting  on                                                                    
     what it is  should be adequate to  convince anyone that                                                                    
     this  is  a  procedure   which  should  be  prohibited.                                                                    
     Supporting  it  really  is  an  effort  to  defend  the                                                                    
     indefensible.     Partial-birth   abortion  really   is                                                                    
     virtual infanticide.                                                                                                       
     So  we think  it  shouldn't be  a controversial  issue,                                                                    
     really.    Sadly,  in  many  instances,  we  have  been                                                                    
     mistaken  and  not  fully appreciating  the  commitment                                                                    
     that some  individuals have  to abortion  regardless of                                                                    
     the  circumstances of  the pregnancy.   This  is simply                                                                    
     reaping, I believe,  the harvest of Roe  v. Wade, which                                                                  
     legalized abortion  at any stage  of pregnancy  for any                                                                    
     reason or for  no reason.  So we need  to have this ban                                                                    
     enforced  if   we  want  to  maintain   at  least  some                                                                    
     semblance in  our society  as a  civil society  when it                                                                    
     comes how we treat the  most defenseless members of the                                                                    
     human family.   So we thank the  [joint prime] sponsors                                                                    
     for this proposed legislation and  we ask for favorable                                                                    
     consideration by this committee.  Thank you very much.                                                                     
2:12:46 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN P.  MONAGLE said that no  one can convince him  that a fetus                                                               
is anything  other than a  human being - a  baby - that  is being                                                               
killed [via abortion],  and so anything that can be  done to stop                                                               
"this crime" should be done.   In conclusion, he said he supports                                                               
[HB 301].                                                                                                                       
2:13:51 PM                                                                                                                    
DEBBIE JOSLIN, President, Eagle  Forum Alaska, after thanking the                                                               
committee for  hearing HB  310 and the  joint prime  sponsors for                                                               
introducing it, characterized it as  "a good thing."  She offered                                                               
her understanding  that there was  broad, bipartisan  support for                                                               
passing the  federal partial-birth abortion ban,  perhaps in part                                                               
due to  the publicity highlighting  what is actually  entailed in                                                               
such  a procedure.   It  really  isn't a  pretty way  to kill  an                                                               
unborn  baby, she  remarked; it  is particularly  gruesome.   She                                                               
offered  her  understanding  that  the  U.S.  Supreme  Court  has                                                               
already  ruled that  it is  constitutional  to ban  this form  of                                                               
abortion.  In conclusion, she urged  the committee to pass HB 301                                                               
without amendments,  surmising that  it will merely  align Alaska                                                               
law with "the U.S. Constitution."                                                                                               
CHAIR  RAMRAS, after  ascertaining  that no  one  else wished  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on HB 301.                                                                                     
2:16:30 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLMES  made  a  motion  to  adopt  Amendment  1,                                                               
labeled 25-LS1139\C.1, Kurtz, 1/21/08, which read:                                                                              
     Page 1, following line 2:                                                                                                  
     Insert a new bill section to read:                                                                                         
        "* Section 1. AS 18.16.050(a) is amended to read:                                                                   
          (a) Notwithstanding compliance with AS 18.16.010,                                                                     
     a  person may  not  knowingly  perform a  partial-birth                                                                    
     abortion  unless  continuation   of  the  pregnancy  is                                                                
     likely  to  result in  the  pregnant  woman's death  or                                                                
     poses  a substantial  risk of  permanent injury  to the                                                                
     pregnant woman's physical or  mental health [A PARTIAL-                                                                
     BIRTH  ABORTION IS  NECESSARY  TO SAVE  THE  LIFE OF  A                                                                    
     MOTHER  WHOSE   LIFE  IS   ENDANGERED  BY   A  PHYSICAL                                                                    
     DISORDER,  ILLNESS,  OR  INJURY AND  NO  OTHER  MEDICAL                                                                    
     PROCEDURE  WOULD SUFFICE  FOR THAT  PURPOSE]. Violation                                                                    
     of this subsection is a class C felony."                                                                                   
     Page 1, line 3:                                                                                                            
          Delete "Section 1"                                                                                                  
     Insert "Sec. 2"                                                                                                          
CHAIR RAMRAS objected [for the purpose of discussion].                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES  noted that  Amendment 1 proposes  to amend                                                               
AS 18.16.050(a),  a provision of  statute not  currently included                                                               
in HB  301, which just  changes the definition  of "partial-birth                                                               
abortion".   As  currently written,  AS 18.16.050(a)  contains an                                                               
exception  to  the  restriction on  partial-birth  abortion,  and                                                               
Amendment 1 would change the  wording of that exception such that                                                               
a partial-birth abortion could be  performed not only if the life                                                               
of the  mother is threatened but  also if there is  a substantial                                                               
risk of permanent  injury to her physical or mental  health.  She                                                               
offered her belief that including such language is critical.                                                                    
CHAIR RAMRAS questioned what constitutes "mental health".                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES  offered:  "The  requirement of it  being a                                                               
...  substantial risk  of permanent  injury applies  to both  the                                                               
physical and mental  health aspects; there are cases  in which it                                                               
could be found  that it would cause severe trauma.   I don't know                                                               
the exact medical definition."                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL said  he objects  to Amendment  1, though                                                               
likes the inclusion  of the words "permanent injury".   He opined                                                               
that Amendment  1 would soften  the effect  of HB 301,  and noted                                                               
that  it  will be  hard  to  substantiate a  potential  permanent                                                               
mental health problem.  He offered  his belief that the life that                                                               
is healthy  needs to be  protected, and that physical  and mental                                                               
injury can  probably be  repaired, whereas  killing "a  child" is                                                               
2:21:04 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN,  speaking as one  of the bill's  joint prime                                                               
sponsors,  opined  that  life  is precious,  whether  it  be  the                                                               
mother's or  the child's,  and so both  should be  saved whenever                                                               
possible.  He asked how  often "this situation" has occurred, and                                                               
whether current statute contains a definition of mental health.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL noted  that mental  health disorders  are                                                               
described  in the  [Diagnostic and  Statistical Manual  of Mental                                                               
Disorders, Fourth  Edition (DSM-IV)],  and surmised that  as used                                                               
in Amendment 1,  the term, "mental health" could  fall under that                                                               
code, which he characterized as very broad.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES explained that  the language of Amendment 1                                                               
was derived from Colorado and Delaware state statutes.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM relayed her belief  that if the child in                                                               
the womb  is of the size  described in the bill,  then a Cesarean                                                               
section could be performed -  instead of a partial-birth abortion                                                               
- and  the child  could then be  given up for  adoption.   If the                                                               
steps outlined in the bill have to  be taken in order to kill the                                                               
unborn child,  then that child  is probably capable of  living in                                                               
an incubator and  thus wouldn't have to be killed.   She said she                                                               
opposes Amendment 1.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLMES offered  that the  U.S. Supreme  Court has                                                               
already  debated, in  two  cases,  whether there  needs  to be  a                                                               
"health of  the mother" exception  in "a statute like  this," and                                                               
whether such a procedure is  ever medically necessary to save and                                                               
protect the health of the mother.   In both cases there was a lot                                                               
of serious debate among the  medical community on this issue, and                                                               
this debate  is ongoing.   Even if  the court does  find Alaska's                                                               
existing exception  to be adequate,  because the debate  is still                                                               
so  active, it  may not  be  the right  decision; therefore,  she                                                               
remarked, "I have  to come down on the side  of allowing a health                                                               
exception."   The language of  Amendment 1 is  not meant to  be a                                                               
"light" standard, she assured the  committee, and if it ever were                                                               
deemed medically  necessary to  perform a  partial-birth abortion                                                               
in order to  preserve a woman's health, it would  be important to                                                               
have included such an exception.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM pointed out  that even during a "normal"                                                               
child birth,  complications can occur resulting  in problems that                                                               
doctors  may  or  may not  be  able  to  fix.   She  relayed  her                                                               
knowledge of  one woman who'd  chosen to  give birth and  then to                                                               
give the baby up for adoption  because she felt she couldn't care                                                               
for  it  properly, and  offered  her  belief that  any  expectant                                                               
mother in a similar situation would  prefer to give birth - via a                                                               
Cesarean  section  if  necessary  -  and then  let  the  baby  be                                                               
adopted.   She noted that when  her mother was pregnant  with her                                                               
brother during the  Rubella epidemic, the doctors  advised her to                                                               
have an abortion;  her mother instead chose to give  birth to her                                                               
brother, and although  he was born prematurely and  had a hearing                                                               
problem, he was  not "the monster that they said  he was going to                                                               
come  out  to  be."    Although she  understands  the  intent  of                                                               
Amendment 1, she relayed, she  feels that delivering the baby via                                                               
Caesarean section is an alternative to a partial-birth abortion.                                                                
2:34:23 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  noted   that  existing  AS  18.16.050(a)                                                               
already  references the  life of  the mother  and protecting  the                                                               
life of  the mother -  in situations  wherein only one  may live,                                                               
the mother gets priority.   Historically, he surmised, before Roe                                                             
v. Wade,  it was the  other way  around - if  they had to  make a                                                             
choice, doctors  would try to save  the baby and not  the mother.                                                               
Statute currently  says that  the life of  the mother  has value,                                                               
and  so  it  is  important,  he opined,  to  also  say,  wherever                                                               
possible,  that the  life of  the child  has value  as well;  one                                                               
obvious place to  make such a policy statement is  in the statute                                                               
restricting  the use  partial-birth  abortions,  because to  him,                                                               
"that's a life,"  regardless of whether it  starts at conception.                                                               
House Bill  301, he indicated,  is the best  that can be  done at                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES  argued that just because  the U.S. Supreme                                                               
Court has  said "we can" doesn't  mean they should.   Noting that                                                               
she puts a very high value on  the life and health of the mother,                                                               
and given that  the debate regarding whether such  a procedure is                                                               
ever  necessary  is  still  ongoing, she  said  she  thinks  that                                                               
including  a  "life  and  health  of  the  mother"  exception  is                                                               
2:38:48 PM                                                                                                                    
A  roll call  vote was  taken.   Representative  Holmes voted  in                                                               
favor of Amendment 1.   Representatives Lynn, Dahlstrom, Coghill,                                                               
Samuels, and  Ramras voted  against it.   Therefore,  Amendment 1                                                               
failed by a vote of 1-5.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER,  in conclusion,  said he  appreciates that                                                               
Representative   Holmes   discussed   her  amendment   with   him                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN relayed  that he is pro-life  and believes in                                                               
protecting  human  life  from  the  moment  of  conception  until                                                               
natural  death occurs.   House  Bill 301  addresses the  issue of                                                               
infanticide,  he  opined,  because for  all  practical  purposes,                                                               
during a partial-birth abortion, the  baby has already been born.                                                               
In  conclusion,  he   said  that  life  is   precious  and  needs                                                               
protection, and that he supports HB 301 as doing "just that."                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES reiterated her belief  that the health of a                                                               
woman  is [paramount],  and  said she  is  disappointed that  her                                                               
proposed  exception  is  not  included   in  the  bill  and  will                                                               
therefore be objecting to passage of the bill.                                                                                  
2:41:41 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM moved to report  HB 301 out of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations   [and  the  accompanying  zero                                                               
fiscal note].                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES objected.                                                                                                 
A roll call vote was  taken.  Representatives Dahlstrom, Coghill,                                                               
Samuels,  Lynn, and  Ramras voted  in favor  of reporting  HB 301                                                               
from  committee.     Representative  Holmes  voted   against  it.                                                               
Therefore,  HB  301  was  reported out  of  the  House  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee by a vote of 5-1.                                                                                            

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