Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/09/2001 04:43 PM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Number 2053                                                                                                                     
           SB 91-ABORTION: INFORMED CONSENT; INFORMATION                                                                    
MS. SANDRA ALTLAND, staff  to Senator Ward, noted that there are two                                                            
main parts  to informed consent.   First,  the Department of  Health                                                            
and Social Services  (DHSS) would be required to develop  a pamphlet                                                            
that would be  available to the public.  The pamphlet  would consist                                                            
of factual  and nonbiased  information that  talked about  pregnancy                                                            
and abortion  alternatives available  throughout the state.  Second,                                                            
SB 91 asks that  the current signed consent requirements  be changed                                                            
from regulation to statute  and that definite points be covered with                                                            
pregnant women during informed consent.                                                                                         
MS.  ALTLAND  said  it is  important  for  women  to  have  abortion                                                            
information  before them  so they  can make the  best decision,  and                                                            
DHSS is to compile a pamphlet  and distribute it, free of charge, to                                                            
anyone who wants  it.  The pamphlet would discuss  fetal development                                                            
and it would  use the term "unborn  child."  The words unborn  child                                                            
need to  be in the pamphlet  because the  pamphlet would be  written                                                            
for people who want to  use terms such as baby or unborn child - the                                                            
term fetal development dehumanizes the reality of pregnancy.                                                                    
MS.  ALTLAND  said  that  page  2,  line  28  talks  about  abortion                                                            
procedures,  medical risks,  and psychological  effects.  Often  the                                                            
psychological  effects  do not surface  until years  later and  this                                                            
connection  is not  made at  the time.   She said  this information                                                             
needed  to be up  front and  in a manner  that speaks  to the  woman                                                            
going  through this  situation, telling  them there  are chances  of                                                            
severe medical  risk.  The information should be available  anyplace                                                            
a pregnant  woman would be, such as  public hospitals, clinics,  and                                                            
health  facilities  throughout  the  state  and it  should  also  be                                                            
available if an  administrator in a private hospital  would like it.                                                            
MS. ALTLAND  said  SB 91 asks  doctors to  take time  in giving  the                                                            
necessary  information to women  who are trying  to make a  decision                                                            
about abortion, and to  also give them other alternatives.  The bill                                                            
also clarifies  what  informed consent  is, and  the pamphlet  would                                                            
have pictures  of  fetal development,  showing the  unborn child  at                                                            
different stages.                                                                                                               
Number 2354                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if SB 91 substantially  modified  current                                                            
MS. ALTLAND noted  that laying out the different points  of informed                                                            
consent would  help unify the information that had  been given.  She                                                            
said  some doctors  are  very  good at  providing  information,  but                                                            
others do not take the time for good informed consent.                                                                          
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked if SB 91  was just copying the  regulation                                                            
language into statute.                                                                                                          
MS. ALTLAND was not sure of the answer.                                                                                         
Number 2243                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  noted that it was  not his intention to  move SB 91                                                            
from committee  at this  time because  there had  not been  adequate                                                            
notice of the meeting or adequate time for testimony.                                                                           
DR. BOB JOHNSON, testifying  via teleconference from Kodiak, said he                                                            
has practiced medicine  in Alaska from 1955 to 1994 when he retired.                                                            
He said  he performed abortions  during that  time and was  the only                                                            
physician in  Kodiak that did.  He  said he had faxed the  committee                                                            
an article  he wrote several years  ago on abortion.  He  opposed SB
91 as  an unnecessary  impediment  to the free  exercise of  choice,                                                            
which  had been  a  legal right  of  women  since Roe  versus  Wade.                                                            
Administratively  there  are  requirements  in place  for  reporting                                                            
abortions,  the stage of  gestation, reasons  for the abortion,  and                                                            
complications.   The matter of consent  is reiterated many  times in                                                            
all areas of  medical care and no  physician would fail to  obtain a                                                            
signed  consent.   A woman  has a  right to  ask  her physician  any                                                            
question and a physician  has the obligation to answer that question                                                            
to the best  of his or her  ability.  He said  there was no  need to                                                            
designate  exactly what needed  to be asked,  particularly  since it                                                            
often mitigated against  treating each patient as an individual with                                                            
individual  needs.  Dr. Johnson  felt that  SB 91 was redundant  and                                                            
its aim  was to  control  individuals and  impose  what some  people                                                            
think  should be  required  in order  for  women to  exercise  their                                                            
MR.  JOHNSON said  if the  legislature  must  pass SB  91, he  would                                                            
suggest that members  listen to the suggestions of  the Alaska Civil                                                            
Liberties  Union and  consider taking  out the  emotionally  charged                                                            
words  "unborn child."   He  said someone  who was  not in favor  of                                                            
abortions  had obviously  put  this into  the bill,  and the  proper                                                            
medical  term was  fetus, which  was not an  emotionally  disruptive                                                            
MR. JOHNSON  commented  that the  residency requirement  of 30  days                                                            
should  be eliminated.   He said  he hoped  committee members  would                                                            
read the article he had sent.                                                                                                   
Number 2074                                                                                                                     
MS. KAREN VOS  BURGH, Executive Director  for Alaska Right  to Life,                                                            
said SB  91 is  severely needed.   Many  times doctors  do not  give                                                            
patients  full information  and sometimes  the information  not very                                                            
factual.   She had  talked with  many women  who say  they were  not                                                            
given  the  right  information  therefore  it  should  be  required.                                                            
Abortionists do not want  the baby referred to as baby, they want it                                                            
referred to as  fetus - the "preborn baby" is sometimes  referred to                                                            
as pregnancy  tissue  or "just  a bunch  of cells"  or a product  of                                                            
conception.    Virtually  nothing  is being  done  by  the  abortion                                                            
industry  or the general  press to  warn women  who are considering                                                             
abortion  about  its  high  rate  of  risk.    Several  states  have                                                            
implemented  right  to know  laws  and Alaska  should  follow  suit.                                                            
There are over 100 potential  complications associated with abortion                                                            
and there are  many studies that prove  this.  The abortionists  say                                                            
there  is no  connection  between  breast  cancer and  abortion  but                                                            
several studies  have proven  otherwise.   Legislators in 11  states                                                            
are pushing  for pro-life laws requiring  abortion practitioners  to                                                            
tell  women  that an  abortion  could  raise  their risk  of  breast                                                            
cancer.   This  is not  only an  abortion  issue but  also a  health                                                            
issue.   She said the medical  establishment  is trying to  cover up                                                            
the link between  abortion and breast  cancer and that someday  this                                                            
would be a public relations fiasco for them.                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR thanked  her, and said time was running short but SB
91  would be  heard  again if  she wanted  to  testify  at the  next                                                            
Number 1792                                                                                                                     
MS. CHRISTINA  TALBOTT, speaking on  her own behalf, said  she had a                                                            
few concerns  regarding the language  of SB 91.  On page  2, line 10                                                            
the language says, "(4)  states that a person who coerces a woman to                                                            
undergo an abortion may  be prosecuted for a felony offense under AS                                                            
11.41.530."   She said in  the interest of  providing objective  and                                                            
nonjudgmental  language  it  might make  more  sense to  change  the                                                            
language to: "coercing  women into a decision regarding an abortion"                                                            
- just to be more inclusive.   She said (5) is redundant because law                                                            
already requires informed  consent.  On page 3, line 16 the language                                                            
reads,   "(1)  'fertilization'   means   the  fusion   of  a   human                                                            
spermatozoon  with   a human   ovum,"  but  she  said  the  date  of                                                            
occurrence  is unclear.   She objected  to the  language on  page 2,                                                            
lines 18 and 19 defining  "gestational age" as the age of the unborn                                                            
child as calculated from  the first day of the last menstrual period                                                            
of  a pregnant  woman.   She  said this  was  not possible.    Women                                                            
ovulate  between  one and  one half  weeks  after their  period  has                                                            
finished  and if the age  of the unborn child  is counted from  that                                                            
date, two  or three weeks  would be added  to the age of the  child,                                                            
which would be a concern  because lines 19 through 27 on page 2 says                                                            
the pamphlet  is to describe  the fetal development  of the  typical                                                            
unborn child at two week  gestational increments, which would effect                                                            
where the  baby was and  where the woman  reading the pamphlet  felt                                                            
their child had developed.   She said in Section 1, (7) the language                                                            
that says, "relevant information  about the possibility of an unborn                                                            
child's survival  at the  various gestational  ages" is unclear  and                                                            
should be removed from  SB 91 or defined further.  She also objected                                                            
to the  term "unborn  child" because  the word  fetus is a  commonly                                                            
known term, which is an objective nonbiased scientific term.                                                                    
Number 1656                                                                                                                     
MS. KAREN  PEARSON, Director  of the Division  of Public Health  for                                                            
the  Department  of  Health  and Social  Service  (DHSS),  said  the                                                            
department  is  in agreement  that  all women  seeking  a  pregnancy                                                            
termination should be fully  informed prior to termination.  DHSS is                                                            
concerned about the inclusion  requirements for the pamphlet though.                                                            
SB 91 says  that the names of all  providers and agencies  are to be                                                            
in a  pamphlet and  their services  are to be  included, and  all of                                                            
this  is to be  geographically  indexed.   There are  more than  200                                                            
communities in Alaska and  if one pamphlet were assembled that lists                                                            
all the information required  by SB 91, it would be very large.  The                                                            
pamphlet  would  also be  out of  date  by the  time  it is  printed                                                            
because  Alaska  has many  providers  that  come and  go.   DHSS  is                                                            
concerned that what it  is being requested might not accomplish what                                                            
the  sponsor  intended,  which  is information  in  a  complete  and                                                            
useable  form.  The  pamphlet would  also be a  big expense  for the                                                            
department because  it would take someone working  full time to keep                                                            
up with all the changes, in all the communities.                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR said that  under current  statute AS 18.05.035  the                                                            
department  was mandated  to prepare information  regarding  planned                                                            
parenthood  and to place that information  in public hospitals.   He                                                            
asked  how the existing  requirements  would be  any different  than                                                            
what would be required by SB 91.                                                                                                
MS.  PEARSON  said  existing  statute  does  not  specify  that  the                                                            
information  be all in one document  or what the content  should be.                                                            
The statute tells  the department to put out information  related to                                                            
planned parenthood  but it does not  say what the format  or content                                                            
should be.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if the  problem was  in the geographical                                                             
MS. PEARSON  said that  was exactly  right.  SB  91 would require  a                                                            
list for every  service agency, every  provider, in every  community                                                            
with what services they provide and how to access them.                                                                         
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR said that  Ms. Jennifer Rudinger was on line and the                                                            
committee had  received her comments but because of  a lack of time,                                                            
SB 91 would be  held in committee and taken up at  a later date.  He                                                            
said he  would have  his staff contact  her in  advance of the  next                                                            
meeting so she could testify then.                                                                                              
MS.  JENNIFER  RUDINGER, Alaska  Civil  Liberties,  said  she had  a                                                            
statement from  Dr. Jan Whitefield in Anchorage and  would fax it to                                                            
the committee.                                                                                                                  

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