Editor's note: Lawmakers failed to pass House Bill 35 requiring parental notification for abortions during the 2009 Legislative session.
House Bill 35 is NOT about parent-teen communication and parental notification, as some may want you to believe. Really, it's about abortion. The parental notification bill is a tricky way to criminalize abortion in Alaska. Whether you call it parental consent or parental notification, House Bill 35 creates insurmountable barriers to Alaskan teens who need adequate and timely reproductive health care.
As a mother and a former teacher who has worked with teens for more than a decade, I am scared about what this bill and this kind of false advertising will do to the youth in our state. I am writing this letter for all the incredible, hard working teens I've had the opportunity to work with. I want to keep them safe.
Alaska teens come from all kinds of homes. As a teacher, I met parents who proudly told me they would throw their teen, with an unplanned pregnancy, out of the house if she did not have an abortion. I also met other parents who were ready to throw their teen, with an unplanned pregnancy, out of the house if she did have an abortion.
Teen homelessness, drug addiction and alcohol use are big issues in Juneau and across Alaska - issues that will likely increase with barriers to safe and legal health care.
The parental notification bill still includes ridiculous requirements: forcing abused teens to prove and notarize their stories of abuse and find third parties to corroborate their accounts and potentially lengthy judicial proceedings that could force teens into only three options: a second trimester abortion out of state, an illegal abortion in state or a forced pregnancy.
When you actually sit down and read this bill like I did, you get it. This bill is about outlawing abortions for a group that doesn't have a voice. This group is an easy target to use in hot political debate to help galvanize the legislature and embolden some political superstars.
It is time to be truthful about the intent, specifics and consequences of parental notification. Alaska teens deserve to be healthy and safe. House Bill 35 is just a vehicle to polarize the legislature in an abortion debate. Using a group of vulnerable teens in this way is shameful.
If you are really worried about communication with your teens, talk to them today. If you really would be open to discussing all options of an unplanned pregnancy, let them know today. Most parents think, "My teen daughter will never get pregnant." However, according to the state of Alaska's Women, Children and Family health fact sheet, the pregnancy rate in Alaska among teens age 15 to 17 is 25 per 1,000.
Please talk and listen to both your sons and daughters today.
Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition board member