Dear Senator Egan,
I write to you both as a woman and a constituent concerned about our great state becoming the newest front in the war on women, with Senator Coghill’s SB 191 introduced in February (and Representative Keller’s HB 363 working to nix public funds from being used to fund abortion). I find these pieces of legislation, especially Coghill’s, to be an egregious overstepping of boundaries between legislators and those they represent. SB 191, “An Act requiring an ultrasound before abortion” would, as the title states, require women seeking to participate in an additional, unnecessary ultrasound in an amendment to AS 18.16.060(b); our Informed Consent regulations already say that a physician or other health care provider must estimate the gestational age and provide the woman (or “another person whose consent is required”) the information in part (1) of paragraph (b); Coghill’s legislation would require a health care practitioner to perform an unneeded ultrasound in order to ‘verify’ his or her estimation, give the woman the ‘opportunity’ to view the image and hear a detailed explanation of the fetus, and finally sign pages of paperwork stating that they had undergone the superfluous bureaucracy. Why must this be something mandated by our state government? The legislation does not state whose fiscal responsibility it would be for the procedure - if this is put on the woman’s bill, wouldn’t it simply be a measure to help make abortions simply cost prohibitive for those who make their personal and private decision?
As I am sure you know, many states have written and enacted similar pieces of legislation, to the horror and humiliation of women nationwide. One mother in Texas wrote about her experience under the state’s newest anti-woman legislation and tells us the horror story that was her attempt to reduce the suffering of her fetus - which would have, if born, lived a poor life of extreme pain due to multiple birth defects. Despite their grief, Carolyn Jones and her partner decided it would be more humane to abort the fetus than condemn it to a short lifetime of agony. Carolyn wrote about her experiences in an article for the Texas Observer, entitled ‘“We Have No Choice”: One Woman’s Ordeal with Texas’ New Sonogram Law’.
My counselor said that the law required me to have another ultrasound that day, and that I was legally obligated to hear a doctor describe my baby. I’d then have to wait 24 hours before coming back for the procedure. She said that I could either see the sonogram or listen to the baby’s heartbeat, adding weakly that this choice was mine. "I don't want to have to do this at all," I told her. "I'm doing this to prevent my baby's suffering. I don't want another sonogram when I've had two today. I don't want to hear a description of the life I'm about to end. Please," I said, "I can't take any more pain." I confess that I don't know why I said that. I knew it was fait accompli. The counselor could no more change the government requirement than I could. Yet here was a superfluous layer of torment piled on an already horrific day, and I wanted her to know it.
(Read the full article at http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/the-right-not-to-know)
Is this what Senator Coghill wants Alaskan women to experience? As a young woman who had to consider my options last year, I empathize with Carolyn’s pain. I cannot imagine the extreme torture it was to wade through the abuse of power that is the newest assault on a woman’s right to choose. If I was in her shoes, I am not sure that I could keep from raging at the poor technicians whose powers to help patients had been appropriated for state-sanctioned, systematic harassment and the shaming of women. As a citizen of our great state, which has been lauded of having one of the best constitutions regarding an individual’s right to privacy, I cannot allow this to happen. I cannot let our women be put at risk for the chess match that is politics, and I cannot stand by as physicians, who take oaths not to cause undue harm to those in their care, are forced to administer an absurd and needless procedure because people like John Coghill think it is in a woman’s best interest. Let us not forget that one of his co-sponsors, Senator Dyson, sponsored SB 181 in 2009 in the interest of “[ensuring] that a woman’s decision whether to abort is a measured, not emotional, one” (‘Sponsor Statement’, Sen. Fred Dyson, 2009). I am all for helping women make decisions, if they ask for help - but it is apparent to me that neither Coghill nor Dyson hold women in high esteem when it comes to this issue. Dyson went so far as to call a woman seeking an abortion a “mother in crisis”. I cannot stand by and watch men like these legislate themselves into my body! I can’t allow Carolyn Jones’ horror story become that of one of my family, of my friends, my neighbors, or even a stranger on the street.
I write to you, Senator, because Juneau is my home - I will not let it be sullied and made into a place where devastating Acts become law, and women are put through a circus of red tape even more than we citizens already are. The question is this: will you stand with me, for me, and for women across this state? Will you join me and people statewide in standing up against the efforts to restrict our rights to our bodies?
Senator, I wasn’t able to vote for you the year you were elected, I was too young, but I followed your campaign happily and donated what I could. I attended a fundraiser for you and had the opportunity to meet you at the IBEW Union Hall in town. You struck me as an honorable man, despite your gruff candor on Problem Corner. I told you that I would have voted for you, given the chance, and you shook my hand and thanked me - as if I wasn’t some kid that didn’t matter but someone whose vote and opinion you cared for.
You are my senator, Dennis. You represent me and the people of Juneau in what often is viewed as a political circus, up in the Capitol Building. Will you stand with me? Please, oppose SB 191 and similar bills to follow in its stead. Your position on the Senate’s Health and Social Service committee gives you a greater voice to be used for or against such legislation. Please represent me in fighting for a woman’s right not to know, not to be dished out superfluous guilt and harassment. I could tell you that it is the moral or right thing to do, to protect our rights, or that it would keep one’s rights o their own body and health from deteriorating, but those aren’t nearly as important as this simple fact: I cannot represent myself in those rooms and at the hearings, and you can. While I can write letters to everyone in the legislature until my fingers break, and I can call offices until my ears fall off and my tongue dries up, you are the one who can truly get my voice heard.
Please, Senator Egan. All my life I’ve heard stories about the honor that lives within your family and your name. Please, help me and oppose SB 191. Protect women everywhere.
“Fight For Our Rights: fighting to keep the State out of our bodies - protecting our privacy - one letter at a time.”
Dear Representative Dick:
As a young woman getting into politics (and indeed, I've been following the state legislature for some time now, since I've interned for my own town's representative a few years ago), I must convey my utmost disgust with comments you made earlier this week regarding women and how you'd feel better if there were some sort of 'permission slip' required to have an abortion.
May I make the following remarks about what I perceive of your political stance:
- You seem to view the male in the relationship as having much more power or control in the situation.
- Your statement can and is viewed as misogynistic and demeaning, implying values that hold true to the shortly-dead idea that "a woman is seen, not heard".
- You truly don't represent people in your district; you represent your political party's main platforms and the men that steer them.
Where are you representing women? Not to say that all women are liberal/Democrat or the least progressive in their political stance, but your comment that you would feel peace were there a permission slip for a woman to have signed by her male partner (or at least, the donor of paternal DNA to the zygote) shows a flagrant and blatant disregard for the privacy, safekeeping and welfare of women you represent.
Please, feel at peace. I see your political career taking a hard hit for the time being. I know that as a young woman, I will not let my uterus or my rights be invaded by legislators that would dare to legislate what goes on between me and my doctor. I am truly sorry you feel this way, and will do my best to make it well known to people in your district (and outside of it).
Sincerely yours, and very sad that you represent my friends and their family,
Lauren Elizabeth Tibbitts-Travis
PS: This letter, and articles regarding your statements, are being posted to my website (which will be included at the conclusion of this short letter). This website is dedicated to raising awareness about this issue and recording and preserving Alaskan letters to our elected officials in opposition to the legislating of our bodies. I am taking great pains to encourage people to call, write, email, or otherwise contact the people who are supposed to represent them. Take care.
Protecting Privacy - Fight For Our Rights
"Fighting to keep the State out of our bodies - protecting our rights - one letter at a time."
To concerned Alaskan constituents:
You may not have realized, but across the nation there is a great furor over birth control and an individual's right to their own body - so much enthusiasm, in fact, that across the nation there have been additional person-hood and anti-abortion bills introduced and enacted, primarily by members of the Republican party. Most recently notorious of these include Virginia's Senate Bill 462 and Alabama's Senate Bill 12, both of which calls for women considering having an abortion - for their own, personal reasons - to undergo a mandated ultrasound and receive both a visual of the fetus and a verbal explanation of the procedure. “What this is doing is allowing the mother as much information as possible before she makes probably the most difficult decision of her life,” says state Senator Clay Scofield (R-Alabama), sponsor of Alabama's SB 12.
Virginia's Senate passed their bill Tuesday, 2/28/2012, much to the outrage of people across the nation, and has been amended from the original language (which specified the use of a trans-vaginal probe to administer the ultrasound, which penetrates the woman with a phallic wand-like instrument) to not specify what kind of ultrasound be performed to receive the sonogram - though it is stated that before approximately 3 months, the best way to accurately view the fetus is with the trans-vaginal probe. The now-amended bill must be approved by the House, before being sent to Governor McDonnell. Alabama's Senate Bill 12, entitled "An Act that would establish the Right to Know and See Act", is set to be debated starting that same Tuesday, the 28th.
These are not the only such bills in the country. Even in our state, with unique privacy provisions written into our state constitution, Senator John Coghill (R-North Pole) has introduced his version of the idea, known as Senate Bill 191, "An Act requiring an ultrasound before an abortion". The one relatively good thing about this bill is that the language does not specify what kind of ultrasound be performed, but like stated above, the most accurate way to determine gestational age, development and view depictions of the fetus is through the use of a trans-vaginal wand. The text of Alaska's bill states that a woman has the right to refuse to view the image and decline the verbal explanation of the fetus' development, but is still required to undergo the ultrasound procedure.
The issue presented here is not only about the legality or morality of abortion - also attacked by these pieces of legislation is the woman's ability to make her own decisions on her personal reproductive rights and health. Not only does the legislation provide an unnecessary obstacle between a woman, her doctor and her decision, but it also mandates that the physician provide the procedure - he or she is required to do so. Alabama goes so far as to fine and punish doctors or ultrasound technicians for refusal to administer the sonogram. Whatever your personal views on the issues of contraception, abortion, and family planning, they are personal opinions and should not affect the lives of other people. Should the state government be able to overreach themselves and order that women must undergo an additional procedure, one that they would be financially responsible for, a procedure that has been lauded as state mandated rape? The bottom line is that these bills are designed and introduced with the intent to harass women who are facing an important decision into not having an abortion, to humiliate them and shame them, implying that they are heartless and cold women for wanting to have an abortion done after hearing the heartbeat of the fetus. The bills imply that a woman is not able to make her own decisions when it comes to her own body, and states very clearly that a person's right to their own health is quickly deteriorating.
Due to the rather late filing date of this proposed legislation, it is my personal belief that SB 191 will not go very far this last half of the 27th Alaskan Legislative Session - but that does not mean that we don't need to pay attention to this issue; far from it, in fact. With contraception and abortion being such divisive issues across the country, it is likely to be re-filed at the start of the 28th Legislative Session in January, 2013, where it would have the full two years to be worked on should it fail to pass before the season ends in mid-April. Our time to get excited is now - our time to start calling out our elected officials, to reevaluate who in office has done what. To see who really best represents their constituents, not just their party. The primary election for sitting Senators and Representatives (as well as for the seat of US Representative to Congress) is to be held on August 28th of 2012 - a full list of candidates is available here. It is time for voters to reconsider who cares about what in this country. To many, today's Republican party represents a call for more rights of the individual, for the government to get out of health care, and for the government to shrink in general - small enough to fit inside a woman's uterus, apparently. Is this who we really want representing women, men, and children for us in Juneau?
I propose that, at the very least, a major letter-writing campaign be coordinated, with many recipients: to Senator Coghill's offices in Juneau and North pole, the bill's co-sponsors, letters to the editor sent to the major newspapers around the state, and letters to members of the Senate's Health and Social Services committee. The letters to the editor can be submitted every 30 days per contributor, and a newspaper will only accept letters original to that paper, not those sent to many papers in hopes of being published. I submit for your consideration that you help to establish a community to take action against the blatant disregard of individuals' rights to their bodies by the senate and contribute to a campaign to kill the bill via actions like letter writing, calls made to the sponsoring senators and committee members, and public demonstrations. Social media outreach on behalf of the fight will be rampant, and an important aspect of the actions.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
907 723 0438
[Editor's note: Virginia Senate Bill 462 has been APPROVED, as of March 7th, 2012, and is known now as Virginia House Bill 462.]