Anit-abortion bill would add brochure, new hurdles

Posted: Friday, March 09, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill requiring women seeking abortions to sit through an extensive description of fetal development is drawing fire from abortion-rights advocates and support from anti-abortion activists.

The proposal sponsored by Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, would require the Department of Health and Social Services to develop a brochure containing photographs of a fetus at two-week intervals throughout pregnancy. The brochure would also list potential risks of abortion including infection, hemorrhage, complications in future pregnancies, and infertility.

The measure is a toned-down version of a bill that Coghill, one of the Legislature's strongest opponents of abortion, sponsored last year that died in the House. It specifies that the brochure contain ''objective, unbiased'' information and eliminates a 24-waiting period included in last year's bill.

The bill would also establish a legal requirement that physicians providing abortions go through a lengthy process to get patients' informed consent for the procedure.

Abortion-rights advocates argued the bill would put hurdles and obstacles in front of women seeking abortions.

''Legislators should be more concerned about women's health and not trying to coerce them into carrying their pregnancies to term by whatever means possible,'' said Amber Ceffalio of the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, who testified Thursday before the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee with her 9-month-old son, Paul, squirming in her lap.

But abortion opponents say many women have abortions without a true understanding of the procedure and its long-term risks.

''This is at a stage when the baby already feels pain, sucks its thumb and has a heartbeat,'' said Karen Vosburgh of Alaska Right to Life.

If the bill passes, it would cost the state about $50,000 in the fiscal year that begins July 1, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.

Karen Pearson, director of the Division of Public Health, said she supports the idea of well-informed surgical patients, but argued that the money could be better used in other education efforts.

''We question the need for a law specific to the abortion procedure,'' Pearson said.

The committee did not vote on the bill, holding it for another hearing.

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