Legislature(2007 - 2008)CAPITOL 120
01/21/2008 01:00 PM JUDICIARY
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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 abortions." 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 legislation." 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 irreparable. 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 present. 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 important. 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 beforehand. 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.