Twenty-four-hour abortion notice bill clears first committee

Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill that would require women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours and sit through an extensive description of fetal development passed the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee on Tuesday.

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.

Physicians would have to show women seeking abortions the brochure, which would also list potential risks of abortion, including infection, hemorrhage, complications in future pregnancies, and infertility.

The measure passed 5-1 out of a committee dominated by abortion opponents.

''Stop and think before a human life is taken, that's all we're asking,'' said Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks.

Abortion-rights advocates condemn the measure as an attempt to humiliate and intimidate women seeking abortions. They contend the 24-hour waiting period would be a financial hardship for Alaska women in many remote communities who must make long trips to obtain abortions.

''This is going to produce a significant hardship for poor rural women,'' said Rep. Allan Kemplen, D-Anchorage, the only member of the committee to vote against the bill.

The measure also drew fire from physicians, including state Director of Public Health Dr. Peter Nakamura, who said the language and information in the brochure mandated by the bill is biased.

Nakamura specifically criticized the use of the term ''unborn child'' in place of the medically correct ''fetus'' and the lack of information about the health risks of carrying a child to term.

The bill now moves to the House Judiciary Committee.

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