Editor's Note: In the month before the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber has posted daily updates on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. Today is the last in a series of posts which includes Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana ,Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama,Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Maine & New Hampshire. Make sure to read through the entire series!
Hawaii has truly made it, if by made it we mean noticed by unabashedly anti-choice news and propaganda organizations. Articles appeared across the internet subculture about a Planned Parenthood in the state allegedly funding sex-selection with taxpayers’ money. From Life News, in June: “Two new exposé videos reveal the Hawaii-based Planned Parenthood abortion business selling taxpayer-funded abortions to women posing as potential customers seeking an abortion for purposes of sex-selection.” (We’ll let the mischaracterization of non-profit Planned Parenthood as a “business” slide, for now.) It should be noted that not a single major journalistic organization found this sting attack newsworthy.
In 1970, Hawaii legalized abortion “essentially at the request of the woman” for residents of the state. As of today, it has none of the major or common restrictions we find in other states. (In other news, and because I have nowhere else to stick it, on Halloween Guam Governor Eddie Calvo signed a law implementing requirements for state-directed counseling and a 24-hour waiting period. A trick without a treat!)
Former self-described pro-choice Republican Governor Linda Lingle, now running for U.S. Senate, signed a set of laws in 2006 that lifted decades-old restrictions on abortion, including the residency requirement and that the procedure be performed in a hospital, and reaffirmed “a woman's right to abort a "nonviable" fetus or obtain the operation if it is necessary to save her life or health.” Also during her governorship, she signed a law allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription. Lingle publicly opposes the GOP platform tenet calling for a constitutional ban on abortions: “for the Party as a whole to adopt an overarching platform plank such as this would be divisive and serve as fuel for the inflamed, partisan political atmosphere that has gone on too long all across the country.” She also stated opposition to the Blunt Amendment, which would have created broad “moral” exemptions for employers who didn’t want to cover employee health care.
Accessibility will likely remain unrestricted in Hawaii. The state legislature is laughably blue, and Governor Neil Abercrombie received a blue ribbon-worthy 100% Anti-Life Voting Record rating (this is a thing, apparently) from the Hawaii Christian Coalition. Not to be deterred, he warned in May “that there is an attack on women in the country, including on abortion rights. ‘We are going to fight back in this election ... There is a war on our basic values.’” Still, Abercrombie’s job approval rating is at 41%, a low likely due to the economy according to analysts, while another Hawaiian Democrat — namely Barack Obama — is polling at 68%.
In 1995, a court blocked the implementation of a Montana law requiring girls under 18 seeking abortions to notify their parents. The court ruled the law violated the Montana constitution. However, voters will see a very similar question on their ballots in November. “LR-120 prohibits a physician from performing an abortion on a minor under 16 years of age unless a physician notifies a parent or legal guardian of the minor at least 48 hours prior to the procedure.”
Supporter Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, compares the referendum to “parental notification for tattoos, for ear piercings, for a child to go to a tanning salon.” Opponent Julianna Crowley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana countered: “Young women don’t kill themselves because they have to ask a parent for a Tylenol.” A September poll showed 65% in support of the measure. If and when this passes and if and when it is taken to court, it will be interesting to see if Montana’s Supreme Court still considers it an unconstitutional violation of privacy rights.
In 1997, a Montana court overturned a law mandating only physicians be permitted to perform early-term abortions. Previous interpretation of state law permitted physician assistants with physician supervision to perform these procedures. The court found the state “had failed to show a compelling interest supporting the requirement that abortions be performed only by physicians.”
In 2011, Montana’s legislature passed a bill that would have prohibited the sale of insurance plan that covered insurance on the state’s health exchange. Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed it on the grounds that it violated privacy rights and access to reproductive care. The legislature also considered an ultrasound bill which included the requirement that doctors explain the image to women. None of these passed.
As of this moment, Montana has really no abortion restrictions. But Republicans hold the edge in the both the State House and Senate, and Democrat Governor Schweitzer is term limited out. Recent and past polling shows the Republican (Rick Hill) and Democrat (Steve Bullock) gubernatorial candidates running neck-and-neck. Based on these numbers, who can tell? Montanans should hold on to their coat tails because the next legislative session may well be a wild ride, or may well be status quo.
Fun times in Alaska, guys. I think I saved this (the best?) for last because I was hoping to go out with a Mama Grizzly kind of bang. And because I watched that Bristol Palin reality show for the first time recently and it kind of changed my life. Why? I couldn’t quite say. In Alaska, Romney is poised for a victory, according to recent polls. When you examine Alaska's stance on so-called social issues, it's easy to see why.
In Alaska, they have lawmakers like State Representative Alan Dick (cue penis game) who says things like he believes that pregnancies aren’t a woman’s, and that he would “advocate for criminalizing women who have an abortion without the permission via written signature from the man who impregnated her ... If I thought that the man’s signature was required ... in order for a woman to have an abortion, I’d have a little more peace about it.”
...It’s just too easy. Such idiocy, if I may, is a far cry from 1970, when Alaska was one of the first states to legalize abortion.
Earlier in October, a judge in Anchorage Superior Court upheld a state law requiring parental notification for girls under 17 seeking abortions. The judge ruled it does not violate their right to privacy. The law originated in an August 2010 voter initiative, but has been the subject of fierce controversy. Planned Parenthood and private doctors sued to block the law, and it may well end up in higher courts.
In the current legislative session, Alaska’s few non-small-government Republican state legislators have sponsored bills to require ultrasounds and to eliminate most public funding and “forbid full disclosure of pregnancy options and referrals for abortions.” And here it is: the latter was introduced by Representative Wes Keller, a “Sarah Palin appointee, and fellow church member.” Yay.
Alaska is heavily Republican which, if you’ll recall actual Republicanism, is naturally embraced by “Alaskan values: individual freedom from government interference, privacy and fair treatment under the law.” But according to at least one Alaskan commentator, this election could prove the turning point. In its current incarnation, the State Senate’s 10-10 party-line split is in reality characterized by a 6-Republican, 10-Democrat majority voting bloc. This bloc agreed to “avoid hot-button social issues like abortion” because Alaska has more important things to consider, like its oil. This agreement is opposed by four Republicans “because of its moderate stance on abortion.”
The State House is currently 24-16 in the GOP’s favor. Due to redistricting, 59 of Alaska’s 60 legislative seats will be up for grabs. Republican Governor Sean Parnell has already “signaled he will sign into law any legislation landing on his desk that restricts abortion rights.”
Sidebar: In 2010, Parnell refused to extend funding for Denali KidCare, a low-income pregnant women and children health care program, because he was afraid of abortions. This year, his Department of Health and Social Services proposed a new rule that would limit payouts under Medicaid only if the invoice is accompanied by “a certificate saying the procedure was medically necessary because the health of the woman was endangered by the pregnancy.” According to the Anchorage Daily News, in 2001 the State Supreme Court ruled “the state had to fund medically necessary abortions if it funded maternity care, to avoid discriminating among pregnant women who choose different paths.”
Particularly concerning was the wording, which would change from defining “medically necessary” as improving “a condition harmful to the woman's physical or psychological health” to if "the health of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy.” So far, this proposal is still under consideration, and may eventually be ruled unconstitutional.
So back to the legislature: though even Alaska Right to Life thinks oil tax reform will be more urgent for 2013’s legislative session, if the Senate sees even one seat go to a more socially conservative candidate, it could easily be bye-bye to maxing out at contested parental consent and state-directed counseling, and bye-bye to those much-beloved Alaskan values.