Initiative sponsors including former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman applied last week to start gathering signatures. The measure would prohibit doctors from performing abortions for girls under 18 without "notice or consent" from at least one parent.
Palin backed a parental consent measure introduced in the legislature this year. It passed the House but was amended to parental notification in a Senate committee and then held.
Palin said she considered sponsoring the initiative herself but decided not to after checking with the attorney general's office.
"I got a preliminary opinion from Law (Department) just giving me a heads up that critics would certainly file an ethics charge against me if I were to sponsor an initiative," she said. "So though I maintain I have First Amendment rights just as any other citizen does, I won't flirt with the notion of giving critics more ammunition to keep filing wasteful ethics charges against me, but instead I'll volunteer to be the first signature."
If Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell certifies the ballot language as legal, sponsors can begin collecting signatures. Their goal is to get the initiative on the ballot for the next primary election in August 2010. They would need at least 32,734 signatures before the next legislative session in January.
Planned Parenthood will oppose the initiative. Many teens come from unhealthy families and could take dangerous steps to avoid the consequences that would come from facing their parents, said Clover Simon, the Alaska vice president of Planned Parenthood.
"I'm afraid that young women in that situation are going to see this and they're just not going to get any help at all and they are going to take things into their own hand," she said.
Girls researching self-induced abortion on the Internet could find all kinds of bad advice, she said.
Palin blamed "inflexibility by some senators" for the bill in the legislature not passing. A young girl, she said, should have the counsel of her parents in such a major decision.
The bill remains in the Senate Health Committee. Chairwoman Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, said it needs more work.
The bill would force a girl to wait 48 hours to have an abortion even after telling a parent, Davis said. The bill requires compromise on both sides, she said.
"If they want to do an initiative they have a right to do that; it might be the way they are going to get it done," Davis said.
Palin said in an e-mail sent through her spokeswoman that she expects her support of the initiative will prompt an ethics complaint even though she's not a sponsor.
"I acknowledge the 'new normal' we're dealing with today will no doubt see someone filing a charge against me anyway, for exercising my First Amendment rights as a citizen, but I will not hesitate to speak up in support of Alaska's daughters," she wrote.
Alaska law says a governor cannot spend money or "provide anything of value" to influence the outcome of a ballot measure unless the Legislature has appropriated money for that purpose. Alaska election regulators are investigating whether Palin violated the law last summer when she said in response to a question at a state press conference that she would vote no on a ballot measure to tighten limits on water pollution discharges from mines.
The prime sponsors of the parental involvement initiative are Leman, recent Anchorage school board candidate Mia Costello, and Kim Hummer-Minnery, whose husband is president of the Alaska Family Council, a Christian pro-family, anti-abortion group that is supporting the effort.
The initiative would require parental "notice or consent" unless the teen persuaded a court to avoid it or if there was a medical emergency.
A required 48-hour waiting period could be waived if the parent gave consent for the abortion.
Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council, said the ultimate goal is a state law requiring a parent to give permission before a teenage girl can have an abortion.
The Alaska Supreme Court two years ago ruled 3-2 that a parental consent law was unconstitutional, saying it would rob a pregnant teen of her constitutional right to make such an important decision herself, and instead transferred that right to her parents or a judge.
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