Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 Alaska Proposition 2

[UPDATE 2012:  Here's the post on the 2012 Prop 2 to reestablish an Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program.]

I've been trying to avoid this.  KSKA has done a pretty good job and you can listen to Kathleen McCoy's Hometown Alaska show with guests representing both sides.   And Lisa Demer at the Anchorage Daily News on Friday covered it in depth. 

So I can just step back and leave the details to the others and try to put it into a larger perspective.

The PR characterization by the pro and anti forces:

PRO:  Alaskans for Parental Rights
ANTI:  Alaskans Against Government Mandates

Comment:  The pro forces win here, by being closer to what the measure is about.  The bill would require notification of parents before a pregnant girl under age 18 can have an abortion.  The anti forces seem to have taken a lesson from some of the right wing groups that have stretched the names they use to fight things they don't like.  Many things the government does (including things the anti-forces believe in) are 'government mandates' and yes, this would require doctors to inform the parents, I think this is fairly misleading.

What it's really about:

This is basically an anti-abortion measure.  An earlier law which required parental consent for an abortion for girls was thrown out by the Alaska Supreme Court.  This is an attempt to at least require parental notification.  But is this about parental rights?  Technically, yes, but it sure smells like it's really an attempt to make it harder to get an abortion.

What it's really about 2:

This is also about the balance of power between parents and their daughters.  The pro forces would give more power to the parents.  The anti forces would maintain the daughters' freedom to make these decisions.

The anti forces argue that there are girls whose dysfunctional families make it impossible, even dangerous, for the girls to go to their parents.  90% of the girls, they say, actually do talk to their parents.  Their concern, they say, is the 10% in dysfunctional families, or who may even be pregnant by a family member.

The pro forces say they have taken care of this by including an option to have a judge make the decision.  (Would you trust a random judge to make this sort of decision for you?)
The anti forces are particularly concerned about rural girls and the difficulties they already face.

Types of Parents and Types of Kids

As I see it, we have a continuum of parents from 

  1. Parents who essentially have abandoned their kids to do their own thing - either because they are working so much, or they are dysfunctional and can't control their own lives let alone their kids' lives. 
  2. Parents who teach their kids to make age appropriate decisions about their lives and encourage them to become independent and think for themselves as they mature and give them the skills and information to do this - including birth control and sexual health information.
  3. Parents who want to keep a close control of their kids and have very specific expectations for how their kids should behave and what they should do, even if the kid doesn't fit their mold.  
There are more different kinds of parents along the line and I'm sure readers could fill in different types of parents and where they fit on the continuum.

There are also different kinds of kids:


1.  Kids who are physiologically incapable of making many decisions for themselves.  FAS kids, for instance, come with many different kinds of abilities, some of whom really can't make good long term decisions and need protection from being taken advantage of even as adults.

2.  Kids whose families have not prepared them to make responsible decisions or who temperamentally are not suited to making important decisions on their own.

3.  Kids who have good smarts and have been trained or simply had an aptitude  to take personal responsibility and make important decisions about their lives.

I guess what I'm saying is that we can't generalize about the power relationship between kids and their parents.  In some cases the kids are better equipped to make important decisions about their own lives.  In other cases not.

There are cases where good kids make it through bad families, and there are cases where despite the best parenting, the kids turn out difficult.

I would argue that most parents would like their kids to consult them for important decisions.  And I dare say that in most families this happens.  In cases where girls cannot be persuaded by counselors to include their parents in the decision, I would guess that the girls probably have a good reason.  But not always. 

Does it really matter if it passes or not?

In the KSKA debate both sides seemed to agree that there were about 125 girls under 18 who have abortions in an average year in Alaska.  If it's true that 90% inform their parents (and I didn't hear the pro-forces challenge this), then all this is about 12 girls a year.  It doesn't stop them from getting abortions, it only delays it for 48 hours or so.  This may prevent a few girls from getting abortions, or, as the anti forces argued, it may cause some girls to take desperate measures to end their pregnancy.

Anti-abortion advocates will say that each abortion is a murder and so any abortion prevented is worth any effort.  I don't think abortion is a good thing.  No surgical procedure is a good thing if it can be prevented.  Rather than spend all this time and money on trying to change the law this way, it seems to me that everyone's time would have been better spent on serious sex education and birth control to make sure that there are simply fewer unwanted pregnancies and this would decrease the number of pregnancies.

Other Issues

It was suggested that this law would make doctors consider their own legal liability when trying to determine what is best for their patient.  Doctors have to deal with informing parents and in some cases getting girls to judges. 

The pro forces have very effectively taken the comparison between parents permission required for schools to give a kid an aspirin to their not even being informed that their daughters are pregnant.

There is a major difference here though.  Schools are not medical institutions and except for school nurses the personal are not medically trained.  These rules are in place to be sure that a teacher or an aide doesn't give an aspirin to a kid who is allergic to aspirin and would have a serious reaction.

Doctors, however, will be making the decisions about whether the child has an abortion.  I don't know how they work out getting the girl's medical record before making this decision.  And some girls may not even have a medical record. 

I did another post the other day that suggested if people didn't read and/or understand the bill, they should either not vote or vote no.  I would advise anyone who hasn't read this bill and doesn't understand it after they read it, should simply skip this measure and go on and vote for the candidates.  Or they should vote no.


  1. Extremely well written. But if I correctly understand the "types" charts, it puts ex-governor, Sarah Palin differently then she portrays herself.

  2. Anon, Thanks.

    But I would say that I only put up three types to give a sense of the possible combinations. There are many more. I didn't even talk about the situation where the father is one type and the mother another type.

    And I didn't mention where any real people would fit. So you are totally responsible for whatever you assume about where Sarah Palin or anyone else fits.

  3. many may think this is all about anti abortion. i as a parent who voted for measure 2 think is about taking back rights of being a parent. why cant my children get an aspirin or immunization shot with out my permission but they can go get an abortion? teens are not old enough to make a decisions that will affect them in ways they may not understand. like guilt or sterility following and abortion and may get infections or other compilations that can kill them if left alone but they wont tell their parents what they did, and that they need to go to the hospital. i personally have known teens who used abortion as birth control. instaed of the pill the shot or condoms. THAT IS WRONG! PARENTS SHOULD BE MADE AWARE!


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