An Alaskan petition initiative to place a measure requiring parental notification for an underage girl seeking an abortion has collected 31,000 signatures. Organizers credited the efforts of Catholics like Archbishop of Anchorage Roger Schwietz, who asked Catholics to sign the petition and encouraged parishes to support the proposal.
The parental notification initiative must secure 32,734 signatures to place an initiative on the ballot. Organizers are seeking another 11,000 signatures to make up for any invalid signatures.
In a Sept. 3 letter Archbishop Schwietz voiced support for the initiative. He said the petition effort sends a “strong message that Alaskan parents should be involved in the healthcare decisions of their children.”
As of November 2007, he reported, only 14 states did not have a parental notification law.
Addressing concerns about election law, the archbishop noted that though it is prohibited to endorse a particular candidate on Church property, the same restriction does not apply when discussing an issue of public policy.
Alaskans for Parental Rights, the organization leading the initiative, said Catholic support has made a large impact on its success, the CatholicAnchor.org reports.
“His words of encouragement have raised up an army of petition circulators from parishes across the state. Many of these ‘soldiers’ have circulated the petitions in their home parish and even visited other churches in order to collect signatures,” the group’s campaign organizer Kelly Foreman said in a Dec. 8 e-mail to the Anchor.
The state requires signatures for an initiative to be gathered from 30 of the 40 House districts. Foreman reported that ten House districts have met the minimum number of signatures, while ten other districts need less than 100 more signatures.
Organizers of the petition drive hope to file all signatures by the end of December after verifying names against voter registration records.
In November 2007 the Alaska Supreme Court overturned a state law requiring parental consent before a minor’s abortion, though it had passed by an overwhelming vote in the legislature, the Anchor reports.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in 2006 a reported 369 Alaska teens had abortions. Of those 74 were 16 years old or younger and 54 were 17 years old.