Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/06/2004 03:40 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
            SB 219-OFFENSES AGAINST UNBORN CHILDREN                                                                         
CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced SB 219 to be up for consideration.                                                                 
SENATOR  FRED DYSON,  sponsor, explained  that  this bill  models                                                               
other  legislation enacted  in other  states. It  says that  if a                                                               
perpetrator  murders  or assaults  a  pregnant  woman and  causes                                                               
damage or death  to the unborn child then the  perpetrator may be                                                               
charged with two crimes.                                                                                                        
AS 11.41 is  amended to accommodate the  model legislation adding                                                               
manslaughter  and  criminally  negligent homicide  of  an  unborn                                                               
child.  An abortion  or other  customary and  standard procedures                                                               
are specifically exempted from penalty under this law.                                                                          
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a comparison to the federal law.                                                                   
SENATOR  DYSON  replied  they  are similar  in  wording,  but  he                                                               
introduced  this because  the federal  law goes  forward only  in                                                               
federal jurisdictions or in the commission of a federal crime.                                                                  
SENATOR STEDMAN referred to page 1,  lines 6, 8, and 12 and asked                                                               
why line  12 didn't include  the words  "with intent" as  lines 6                                                               
and 8 do.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  DYSON  explained  that  arson,  kidnapping,  and  sexual                                                               
assault  are hard  to  infer that  there is  intent  to harm  the                                                               
unborn child.                                                                                                                   
WES  KELLER,  staff  to  Senator  Dyson,  pointed  out  that  the                                                               
operational clause is found on page 2, line 4.                                                                                  
SENATOR STEDMAN referred  to page 2, line 27 and  asked about the                                                               
selection of the  verbage "unborn child" rather  than "fetus" and                                                               
whether the selection might not cause problems.                                                                                 
MR. KELLER  said the language  is purposeful. He could  show case                                                               
law  from other  states  indicating that  the terminology  didn't                                                               
make any difference in how the  court ruled. It's just that Fetus                                                               
is Latin  and he prefers to  use plain language so  the layperson                                                               
is able to understand.                                                                                                          
SENATOR STEDMAN  restated the intent  and said he assumes  it's a                                                               
direct   result   of   the  well-publicized   and   reprehensible                                                               
California case.                                                                                                                
SENATOR DYSON agreed.                                                                                                           
KAREN VOSBERG, executive director,  AK Right to Life, distributed                                                               
copies of  a petition that  was signed  by over 1,000  people, at                                                               
the  Palmer  State Fair  stating  that  they  believe that  if  a                                                               
pregnant  woman is  murdered there  are two  victims rather  than                                                               
CHAIR GARY STEVENS wanted to  clarify that the people that signed                                                               
the petition were in support of the bill.                                                                                       
MS. VOSBERG agreed then said the  federal law was signed into law                                                               
April  1, 2004.  Prior  to  this act,  an  unborn  child was  not                                                               
recognized as a  victim of a violent crime. To  date more than 29                                                               
states have  signed similar legislation,  which has no  affect on                                                               
legal abortion, she said. She urged passage of the bill.                                                                        
CASSANDRA  JOHNSON,  executive  director  of  the  AK  Pro-Choice                                                               
Alliance  testified  via teleconference  to  say  that this  bill                                                               
isn't  about   protecting  pregnant  women  because   it  doesn't                                                               
increase the  charges for assaulting  pregnant women.  Also there                                                               
is  no exemption  in the  bill  for the  woman who  inadvertently                                                               
causes harm  to her fetus due  to alcohol use, poor  nutrition or                                                               
attempted  suicide. This  is the  wrong approach,  she said,  and                                                               
urged the committee not to pass the bill.                                                                                       
PAULINE  UTTER  testified via  teleconference  to  urge that  the                                                               
committee not pass  the bill and read a letter  from Anna Quinlan                                                               
stating the same.                                                                                                               
KEVIN  CLARKSON,   attorney,  testified  via   teleconference  in                                                               
support  of the  bill. The  purpose of  the act  is to  extend to                                                               
unborn children,  the same  protection of  the criminal  law that                                                               
applies to those who have been born alive.                                                                                      
Referring  to Senator  Stedman's  earlier  question regarding  no                                                               
intent language in  subsection 3, he stated that  is because that                                                               
is the typical felony murder  provision and the intent is already                                                               
provided by the underlying felony offense.                                                                                      
He gave examples of voids in the  law that the bill seeks to fill                                                               
and  stated that  the  bill doesn't  involve  abortion. He  urged                                                               
passage of the bill.                                                                                                            
4:20 p.m.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked whether  he would comment on the concern                                                               
that there  is no exemption in  the bill in cases  of alcoholism,                                                               
attempted suicide or if a woman didn't know she was pregnant.                                                                   
MR. CLARKSON  replied there are  intent requirements in  the bill                                                               
that  must  be   met  before  the  charge  can   be  levied.  The                                                               
opportunity for the  act to be applied against a  woman who wants                                                               
her child, but is negligent in  causing the death of her child is                                                               
a stretch, he opined.                                                                                                           
ROBIN SMITH testified via teleconference  from Anchorage that the                                                               
bill is  the latest  attempt by the  Alaska Legislature  to limit                                                               
reproductive freedom. She said the  language in the bill makes it                                                               
clear  that it  is not  about  protecting pregnant  women. It  is                                                               
about  giving  separate,  legal   rights  to  the  fetus  thereby                                                               
undermining a  woman's right to  reproductive freedom.  She urged                                                               
the committee to hold the bill.                                                                                                 
VICKI HALCRO, Anchorage director  of public affairs and marketing                                                               
for Planned  Parenthood of  Alaska, testified  via teleconference                                                               
in opposition to SB 219.                                                                                                        
4:30 p.m.                                                                                                                     
TAPE 04-26, SIDE B                                                                                                            
She said that the dangerous reality  of the bill is that it vests                                                               
a  fetus with  the rights  of the  pregnant woman,  which is  the                                                               
first step in  eroding a woman's right to choose.  Nowhere in the                                                               
legislation  is  harm  to  a pregnant  woman  resulting  from  an                                                               
involuntary  termination of  her  pregnancy  mentioned. In  fact,                                                               
women are not  mentioned at all in the bill  yet violence against                                                               
women continues to  be a huge problem in Alaska.  The bill shifts                                                               
the  focus away  from the  women who  are really  the victims  of                                                               
these crimes. She urged the committee to hold the bill.                                                                         
REGINA MONTEUFEL  testified via teleconference from  Anchorage in                                                               
opposition to  the bill.  She runs a  rooming house  in Anchorage                                                               
and  has  lost  track  of  the number  of  women  that  have  had                                                               
abortions in her rooming house.  The stories are all tragic. It's                                                               
sad  that this  is  a state  that doesn't  spend  more effort  on                                                               
preventing abortions and addressing domestic violence.                                                                          
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked her to speak to the bill.                                                                              
MS.MONTEUFEL said she is against the bill.                                                                                      
JENNIFER  RUDINGER,  executive  director   of  the  Alaska  Civil                                                               
Liberties Union,  testified via  teleconference and said  most of                                                               
the points  she was going to  cover were covered by  Robin Smith,                                                               
Vicky Halcro, Cassandra  Johnson and Pauline Utter.  She said she                                                               
couldn't  find  the  language  Mr.   Clarkson  said  was  present                                                               
exempting a pregnant woman from  prosecution from harming her own                                                               
fetus. If that's the intent of  the bill, then the bill should be                                                               
amended, she suggested.  She said she would like to  go on record                                                               
in opposition to SB 219 because  the bill is misguided. There are                                                               
better  ways  to  prosecute  people  who  commit  violent  crimes                                                               
against pregnant women.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE BOB  LYNN testified  in support  of SB  219 saying                                                               
there is a similar bill in the House.                                                                                           
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
SENATOR COWDERY  made a motion  to move SB 219  with accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes  and  asked   for  individual  recommendations  and                                                               
unanimous consent. There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                 

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