Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/11/2001 03:01 PM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Number 910                                                                                                                      
           SB 91-ABORTION: INFORMED CONSENT;INFORMATION                                                                     
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  noted that at the last committee  hearing on SB 91,                                                            
time was  short and not everyone  was able  to testify.  Because  of                                                            
that, Ms.  Carmen Nantez,  Ms. Pat Salzbo,  Ms. Marlee Starnez,  Ms.                                                            
Neva Starnes,  Ms. Jennifer Rudinger,  Ms. Jana Franks, and  Dr. Bob                                                            
Johnson  submitted   their  written  testimony  to  the   committee.                                                            
Senator  Ward's office  had  also submitted  a memorandum  giving  a                                                            
further breakdown on SB 91.  He then took testimony.                                                                            
MS.  KAREN  VOSBURGH, Executive  Director,  Alaska  Right  to  Life,                                                            
testifying  via teleconference,  said she  had gathered statistical                                                             
information about the psychological  and physical damage that can be                                                            
incurred  from an abortion.   She said women  need to know  what can                                                            
happen  to  them   because  of  an  abortion  and  they   also  need                                                            
information  about the developing  child within them.  She  said the                                                            
abortionist decides  what information, if any, to  give, and that it                                                            
was  not in  the best  interest  of the  abortionist  to dissuade  a                                                            
client, as  they would lose money.   She said the abortion  industry                                                            
generates  about $500,000,000  a year  and most  of that money  goes                                                            
into the pockets of the abortionists.                                                                                           
MS. VOSBURGH  said that SB 91 was  not as much an abortion  issue as                                                            
it was  a health  issue  because there  are over  100 complications                                                             
associated  with abortions.  Ms. Vosburgh  said she supports  SB 91.                                                            
MS. KAREN PEARSON,  Division of Public Health, Department  of Health                                                            
and Social  Services (DHSS), spoke  to Section 1(a)(1) -  (9) saying                                                            
many of the requirements  in those sections would  make the required                                                            
pamphlet a very large document.   She suggested that the information                                                            
should be put  in several different  pamphlets, each with  different                                                            
information.   She was not comfortable  with asking women  to review                                                            
all the information if  it was not relevant to their situation.  She                                                            
noted  that  this  is  where  different  pamphlets   with  different                                                            
information  would be useful.   She gave an  example of a woman  who                                                            
had chosen to go ahead  with her pregnancy and then placed the child                                                            
with  an  adoption  agency.  She  said  that  giving  that  woman  a                                                            
pamphlet, showing  all the complications  of an abortion,  would not                                                            
be fair.                                                                                                                        
Number 421                                                                                                                      
SENATOR COWDERY said insurance  companies have policies that include                                                            
a lot of  information and  he felt a pamphlet  could be designed  to                                                            
cover all the information required in SB 91.                                                                                    
MS. PEARSON  said that  would be difficult  because Section  1(B)(7)                                                            
     describes the fetal development  of a typical unborn child                                                                 
     at two-week  gestational increments from fertilization  to                                                                 
     full-term, including photographs  depicting the anatomical                                                                 
     characteristics  of  a typical  unborn child  at two-week                                                                  
     gestational increments."                                                                                                   
MS. PEARSON said this information  and the photographs would have to                                                            
be very small to be included in one pamphlet.                                                                                   
Number 331                                                                                                                      
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked about the example Ms. Pearson  gave and if                                                            
DHSS had a pamphlet concerning adoption.                                                                                        
MS. PEARSON  said DHSS has  different types  of information  but she                                                            
said there needs to be  clarification on who the pamphlet's audience                                                            
is to be.  SB  91 says the department shall prepare  a pamphlet for,                                                            
"Information relating to  pregnancy and pregnancy alternatives," but                                                            
it  is  not  clear   if  the  pamphlet  is  to  lay  out   different                                                            
alternatives or  whether it is to say these are the  alternatives to                                                            
an abortion.                                                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR  asked  how DHSS  came  up with  the  materials  it                                                            
distributes for planned parenthood.                                                                                             
MS. PEARSON said the department  does not put all the information in                                                            
one document;  several documents are used for different  situations.                                                            
MS. JENNIFER  RUDINGER, Executive  Director, Alaska Civil  Liberties                                                            
Union, read a statement from Dr. Jan Whitefield.                                                                                
     Honorable  Senators,  I recently  read SB  91 proposed  by                                                                 
     Senator  Ward.   I must object  to this  bill on multiple                                                                  
     grounds.   This bill is a thinly  veiled attempt squarely                                                                  
     aimed at making  it more difficult for women of  Alaska to                                                                 
     receive   abortions.     It   contains   biased  language                                                                  
     throughout,   and   indirectly   suggests    placing   new                                                                 
     limitations   on   the  availability   of   the  abortion                                                                  
     procedure.  The bill claims  to be about informed consent.                                                                 
     As  physicians   we  are  quite  familiar  with  informed                                                                  
     consent.   If there is a complication  of a procedure  and                                                                 
     informed consent was not  obtained, we are painfully aware                                                                 
     of  the consequences.   Getting  proper  informed consent                                                                  
     before an abortion is very  high on my list of priorities.                                                                 
     Contrary  to  what some  people  may  think, there  is  no                                                                 
     [indisc. - end of tape[.                                                                                                   
TAPE 01-18, Side A                                                                                                          
     ...  If  a  patient  carries  a  pregnancy  to  term,  our                                                                 
     practice  will have a much larger  revenue stream than  if                                                                 
     the  patient has an  abortion.  There  is no incentive  on                                                                 
     our part to encourage abortion  over an ongoing pregnancy.                                                                 
     The bill  starts in a biased  manner by saying that  it is                                                                 
     meant to 'ensure  informed consent before an abortion  may                                                                 
     be performed  except  in cases of medical  emergency.'   A                                                                 
     pregnancy   has  several   possible   outcomes  including                                                                  
     carrying  and delivery, abortion,  adoption, miscarriage,                                                                  
     and ectopic miscarriage,  and others.  There is no mention                                                                 
     of getting informed consent  from women regarding carrying                                                                 
     a  pregnancy  to  term  or giving  the  pregnancy  up  for                                                                 
     adoption.    In my  practice  as a  physician,  I perform                                                                  
     abortions  as well as multiple other procedures  including                                                                 
     both office and hospital  procedures.  The legislature has                                                                 
     not chosen  to pass a bill on how I obtain consent  from a                                                                 
     person  for a C-section or a  hysterectomy, both of  which                                                                 
     carry  far more  risk  to the  patient than  an abortion.                                                                  
     Clearly  the abortion  is being singled  out, but not  for                                                                 
     medical  reasons.   This bill  relates   to politics   and                                                                 
     belief,  not  medicine  or the  safety  of  Alaska women.                                                                  
     Throughout  the bill  the term  unborn child  is used.   A                                                                 
     review   of  the  23rd   edition  of   Stedman's  Medical                                                                  
     Dictionary  reveals  that the  term unborn  or the phrase                                                                  
     unborn  child  are  simply  not  recognized.    There  are                                                                 
     medical  terms  such  as  blastocyst  (ph),  morulla  (ph)                                                                 
     embryo,  fetus, and several other  terms referring to  the                                                                 
     conceptive.   The term unborn child is included  to incite                                                                 
     only emotion.  On page 2,  line 25 the term non-judgmental                                                                 
     is  used when  the decidedly  judgmental  phrase - unborn                                                                  
     child   -  is   used  in   the  very  same   sentence,   a                                                                 
     contradiction of terms.                                                                                                    
     In page 1,  line 1 through 3, line 23 a standard  pamphlet                                                                 
     of  information  is described  again  using  biased  terms                                                                 
     defined  by  the  legislators  not  terms  recognized   in                                                                 
     medical  science.   Page 2, paragraph  7, lines  19 to  27                                                                 
     describe in  detail the pictures that need to  be included                                                                 
     in  this pamphlet.   Why  are these  to be  included,  are                                                                 
     these  meant to 'educate the  patient regarding the  fetal                                                                 
     development  when  she  is deciding  whether  to  carry  a                                                                 
     pregnancy  or whether to have  an abortion.  If so,  where                                                                 
     are the parallel photographs  describing the complications                                                                 
     of abortion  as well as the complications of carrying  the                                                                 
     pregnancy  to  term.   Of what  value are  these pictures                                                                  
     specified in the bill.   When I council patients regarding                                                                 
     an ongoing pregnancy or  an abortion, if a patient asks me                                                                 
     for drawings  or photographs of a fetus at various  stages                                                                 
     of  development,  I have an  encyclopedia  containing  the                                                                 
     information  and I  go over it  with the  patient.  But  I                                                                 
     tailor the information to  the needs of the patient.  Each                                                                 
     person is an individual  and a standard information packet                                                                 
     alluded  to  by this  bill  leaves very  little  room  for                                                                 
     patient individuality.                                                                                                     
     C. Everett  Koop former surgeon  general who is no friend                                                                  
     to  choice and  the  American College  of  Obstetrics  and                                                                 
     Gynecology  after  extensively  reviewing  the literature                                                                  
     concluded   that  there  is  not  solid  scientific   data                                                                 
     suggesting    that    there   are    long-term   negative                                                                  
     psychological effects from  an abortion.  Yet paragraph 8,                                                                 
     page  2,  line   31  refers  to  "possible  psychological                                                                  
     effects'   that  have  been  associated  with  having   an                                                                 
     abortion.   Why  should  a patient  be subjected  to  this                                                                 
     concept  when there is  no proof that  it exists and  will                                                                 
     only   serve   to  frighten   the   patient   with   false                                                                 
     information.  Informed consent  should only involve actual                                                                 
     scientific  information,  not speculation  or conjecture.                                                                  
     Actual scientific information  is referred to line 26 page                                                                 
     2,  if this reference  remains  in the bill  where is  the                                                                 
     comparable  line referring to  the possible psychological                                                                  
     risks of adopting  the baby out.  Finally, Dr.  Whitefield                                                                 
     concludes  this bill is not about science, it's  not about                                                                 
     medicine,  and  this  bill is  not  about  information  or                                                                 
     informed consent.                                                                                                          
     This bill is simple bias,  placing more obstruction in the                                                                 
     paths  of women seeking an abortion.   The suggested  body                                                                 
     of  information  already  available  and gathering  it  as                                                                 
     suggested  is duplication of effort.  The requirements  of                                                                 
     SB 91  serve only  as an obstacle  intended to discourage                                                                  
     patients from  choosing a procedure that is recognized  as                                                                 
     one  of the safest  performed  in medicine.   The persons                                                                  
     served are not the patients  but those who wish to further                                                                 
     obstruct abortion in Alaska.                                                                                               
MS. RUDINGER  said she also  had statements  from Dr. Kathleen  Todd                                                            
and Dr. Sharon  Smith whose comments were basically  the same as Dr.                                                            
Whitefield's and she would fax them to the committee.                                                                           
Number 444                                                                                                                      
MS. ROBIN SMITH,  testifying via teleconference, said  she is deeply                                                            
opposed to Senator  Ward's bill.  She said that if  abortions are to                                                            
be prevented, unintended  pregnancies that lead to abortions need to                                                            
be addressed.   SB 91 is an attempt to intimidate  women from making                                                            
the choice  to  having an  abortion.   Ms. Smith  said the  required                                                            
pamphlet  was redundant.   The decision  to have  an abortion  was a                                                            
difficult one  and the government should not make  women feel guilty                                                            
or bad  by imposing  more  barriers.   Women are  capable of  making                                                            
moral decisions  without government interference.   She said that if                                                            
the legislature  goes  forward  with SB 91,  women also  need to  be                                                            
informed  about unintended  pregnancies.   She said another  concern                                                            
with SB  91 was the likelihood  of receiving  child support  from an                                                            
absent  father  and  how  much  support   the  state  would  provide                                                            
throughout a child's life.   Ms. Smith said that if SB 91 passed she                                                            
would  lobby  to  have  this  other  information   included  in  the                                                            
MS. SMITH said  she would support legislation to prevent  unintended                                                            
pregnancies  and she urged  the committee  to pass the prescription                                                             
equity  bill,  which would  make  insurance  companies  cover  birth                                                            
control.   She also  urged the passage  of the  safe surrender  bill                                                            
that would  allow women an  anonymous and  safe way to relinquish  a                                                            
newborn child.                                                                                                                  
MS.   DEATRICH  SITCHLER,   testifying   via   teleconference   from                                                            
Anchorage, said she is  opposed to SB 91.  She said at the age of 14                                                            
she was diagnosed  with hemophilia,  a disease affecting  the blood,                                                            
and as a result of this  condition it is medically dangerous for her                                                            
to carry  a pregnancy to  term.  If she  were to become pregnant  it                                                            
would be  in her best medical  interest to  terminate the  pregnancy                                                            
rather than  carry the pregnancy  to term.   She felt this  decision                                                            
should only  be between her partner,  her doctor, and herself  - the                                                            
government  should have no  place in this  personal painful  choice.                                                            
She  and her  partner would  find  it very  painful to  listen to  a                                                            
litany of alternatives  to abortion, alternatives  that would not be                                                            
in her  best interest  and that  could actually  threaten her  life.                                                            
Her greatest  objection to  SB 91 was in  the definition of  medical                                                            
emergency.  Ms. Sitchler  would not fall under the medical necessity                                                            
exception  because  having an  abortion at  that  very moment  would                                                            
probably  not be a  lifesaving  measure or an  emergency  situation.                                                            
Therefore,  she would  be  subject to  the extra  counseling,  which                                                            
would be irrelevant to  her situation.  She said this decision would                                                            
be  very painful  for her  and  she would  only be  terminating  her                                                            
pregnancy to save  her own life.  She urged the committee  to oppose                                                            
SB 91.                                                                                                                          
MS. KAREN VOSBURGH said  psychological damages are very real.  There                                                            
is a sense  of depression and a sense  of loss that are very  common                                                            
after an  abortion.   An abortion  also creates  the feeling  of low                                                            
self-esteem and feelings  of having compromised values.  Feelings of                                                            
guilt  are the  most common  reaction  to abortion.    She said  the                                                            
suicide  rate  is  phenomenally   high  among  women  who  have  had                                                            
abortions.   She  said  that abortion  was  suppose  to reduce  teen                                                            
pregnancy  but the  unmarried  teen pregnancy  rate  has risen,  and                                                            
child abuse  was to be eliminated  due to abortion but studies  show                                                            
that there  had been  an increase  in child  abuse  in the last  two                                                            
decades.  She said abortion  had devalued children, born and unborn,                                                            
and women were  told that abortion would empower them  but they were                                                            
not  told how  guilty and  angry they  would  feel.   She urged  the                                                            
committee to pass SB 91.                                                                                                        
Number 1003                                                                                                                     
MR. BOB JOHNSON  said that he had been listening to  some horrendous                                                            
complications  from an  abortion during  the meeting  but, in  fact,                                                            
there  were very  few complications,  and  his experience  with  700                                                            
abortions   shows  very   few   incidents  with   complications   or                                                            
depression.   He  said complications  from  a normal  pregnancy  far                                                            
exceed complications  from abortions.   He echoed Dr. Whitefield  on                                                            
Dr. Koop's  study that said there  were very few complications  from                                                            
an abortion.   He said  this type of legislation  insults a  woman's                                                            
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked if Senator Ward had considered  whether he                                                            
wanted one piece of information or a series of pamphlets.                                                                       
MS. SANDRA  ALTLAND, staff  to Senator Ward,  said the pamphlet  was                                                            
not to replace  other pamphlets.   The intent  of SB 91 was  to give                                                            
more information  than what was available  now.  She said  there was                                                            
no hidden agenda to SB  91, Senator Ward was trying to lay out ideas                                                            
he would like  to see submitted so  that when a woman was  trying to                                                            
make a decision  she would have the information she  need.  She said                                                            
Senator Ward would be happy  to work with DHSS to develop a pamphlet                                                            
that would work.                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  suggested   that  the  pamphlet  could  have  a                                                            
geographically indexed supplement included.                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR said he  was incredulous at  the comments  that had                                                            
been received  on Senator Ward's attempt  to merely distribute  some                                                            
information.  He said:                                                                                                          
     The same types of comments  are made in every totalitarian                                                                 
     society when somebody wants  to 'burn up books' - we don't                                                                 
     want that  information going  out, that information  isn't                                                                 
     correct,  that information  isn't politically  correct  or                                                                 
     what  we want to have  out there.  So  if you're going  to                                                                 
     put  any  information  out there  that  we,  the dominant                                                                  
     liberal cause  don't want to have out there, why  we'll do                                                                 
     everything  we can to  ban you book.   That to me is  just                                                                 
     incredible  testimony.  You would think that people  would                                                                 
     want to have  the greatest level of information  available                                                                 
     to be made readily available.   This state has already put                                                                 
     it  into law that  all of Planned  Parenthood's materials                                                                  
     are  going to  be distributed  for  them.   The very  same                                                                 
     people  that  happily  go  out  and  fill  up  the little                                                                  
     brochure  boxes  at  every  place  to  make  certain  that                                                                 
     Planned Parenthood's  documents get disbursed  are some of                                                                 
     the  same  people  we're  listening   who  say  you  can't                                                                 
     possibly give that information  to anybody else or require                                                                 
     that  they   should  have  an  opportunity  to  see   that                                                                 
     information before going  through a procedure.  I consider                                                                 
     that somewhat amazing in the 20th Century.                                                                                 
MS. ALTLAND said  there are doctors who take the time  and give good                                                            
information,  but  if they  are not  recognizing  any psychological                                                             
harm, how  can they be  fully informing the  woman they are  working                                                            
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR said  there seemed  to be quite  a medical  dispute                                                            
about that.   He said the items included  in the pamphlet  should be                                                            
as accurate as possible so they cannot be disputed.                                                                             
MS. KAREN PEARSON clarified  that the department's interpretation of                                                            
planned parenthood  in the  statute was not  Planned Parenthood  the                                                            
organization.   DHSS   does  not   distribute   Planned   Parenthood                                                            
materials.  The information  DHSS distributes to the public is about                                                            
planning to be a parent.                                                                                                        
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  said he understood  that but if he were  to put the                                                            
department's  documents next  to Planned  Parenthood's documents  he                                                            
would have a hard time seeing much difference.                                                                                  
MS.  PEARSON said  that  the department  does  its best  to get  the                                                            
information  out that it believes  is appropriate and to  inform the                                                            
public on all perspectives.                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  asked if the department  was pushing abstention  or                                                            
was it handing out condoms.                                                                                                     
MS. PEARSON  said DHSS has  a very active  program for teenagers  in                                                            
relation  to abstinence  and there  are no abstinence  programs  for                                                            
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  asked if DHSS kept  any statistical information  on                                                            
the age of  people receiving abortions,  especially those  receiving                                                            
state financing.                                                                                                                
MS. PEARSON  said the department does  not have abortion  reporting.                                                            
She said there  was a piece of legislation  going through  this year                                                            
that  mandated   the  reporting  of   terminated  pregnancies.   The                                                            
department does have information  on terminated pregnancies paid for                                                            
with public dollars though.                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  asked if DHSS had  information on how many  times a                                                            
woman has had a state paid abortion.                                                                                            
MS. PEARSON said she did  not have the answer to that question.  She                                                            
would have to check with the division dealing with Medicaid.                                                                    
CHAIRMAN  TAYLOR said that  in his district  there were five  girls,                                                            
still in high school, each  of which had already had three abortions                                                            
all paid for by  the state.  He said that whatever  is being done to                                                            
convince  people about abstinence  or use  of birth control  devices                                                            
was not working  very well and the ultimate solution  is, "you don't                                                            
have  to take  a pill  and you  don't have  to worry  about using  a                                                            
condom, if in  fact you get pregnant, just go get  the state to give                                                            
you an abortion."                                                                                                               
SENATOR  COWDERY   moved  SB  91  from  committee  with   individual                                                            
recommendations.    There  being  no objection,   SB 91  moved  from                                                            

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