Wait for abortion would be required

Bill calls for education, 24-hour waiting period before doctor proceeds

Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2000

A woman could not just walk into a clinic and have an abortion, under a bill facing legislators.

Instead, she would be given a brochure with pictures of stages of fetal development and information on possible complications of abortion and alternatives. Then she'd be required to wait 24 hours before having the procedure.

House Bill 329, sponsored by Rep. John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, had its first hearing Tuesday in the House Health Education and Social Services Committee.

``Really, the intent of this is protecting the health of the women,'' Coghill said.

State regulations now tell doctors to inform women of the risks of abortion, but there is no statute requiring that, he said.

Pro-choice advocates oppose the measure. Rebecca Howe of Sitka called it a ``biased consent bill'' that is about creating shame for women and infringing on their right to have an abortion.

Some women, however, said the bill is long overdue.

Sandy Doran of Wasilla said she had an abortion 17 years ago and was given little information. ``If something like this was around then, I would not have had one,'' she said.

``This is a life-changing decision,'' she said. ``There are a lot of emotional side effects.''

Aleatha Martin of Fairbanks said no one warned her 15 years ago of the long-term consequences of her abortion. The procedure was painful, she had complications and a long recovery. Her cervix was damaged and she has since miscarried four times, she said.

``I needed information,'' she said.

However, Dr. Peter Nakamura, director of the state Division of Public Health, said the bill as written doesn't require enough information. It should include the risks of childbirth and illegal abortion.

``It is very important that you provide the full spectrum of information,'' he said. ``You can't just give half the information ... or that becomes biased information and prejudices the informed consent.''

Roz Jenkins of Planned Parenthood in Sitka said the bill would place an undue burden on Alaska women. Many have to travel to Anchorage or Seattle to have an abortion, and requiring them to wait a day once they get there adds to their costs, she said.

The waiting period can also subject women to additional harassment by anti-abortion protesters outside clinics, said Karl Ashenbrenner of the Juneau ProChoice Coalition.

``It shows a profound and unnecessary distrust in Alaska women and their doctors,'' he said.

The bill did not move out of the health committee Tuesday, but it probably will have the support to move on to its next committee of referral, House Judiciary. Its cosponsors include HESS Chairman Fred Dyson, an Eagle River Republican, and another HESS committee member, Anchorage Republican Rep. Joe Green, who is also House majority leader.

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