JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate on Friday passed a bill barring "abortion services providers" from contracting with Alaska schools for any purpose, and requiring parental permission before children can take sex-education classes.
Senate Bill 89, sponsored by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, has been condemned by Planned Parenthood, which says it's the sole target of the legislation and would have to stop teaching sex education to more than 2,000 students in a state with high rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate majority caucus said the legislation was about the rights of parents, with Dunleavy saying legislators weren't sent to Juneau to represent an "abortion industry."
"Most parents don't send their kids to school to be trained by abortion providers," he said.
Anchorage Sen. Berta Gardner, the Democratic minority leader, said the measure was a "bad bill" that would do nothing to reduce Alaska's high rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
"Alaska leads the nation in chlamydia rates," Gardner said. "Many of us, as parents, want our children to be informed. We want them to know the scientific facts."
The bill was amended Friday by Gardner to expressly state that it wouldn't block a new law passed by the Legislature last year that requires school districts to teach students about sexual abuse and dating violence.
Following Friday's vote, Planned Parenthood released a statement calling Dunleavy "an increasingly desperate demagogue." And it noted that a legislative attorney has warned that Dunleavy's bill could violate constitutional protections of expression and association.
The vote was 11-7. In favor were Dunleavy, Republicans John Coghill of North Pole; Mia Costello, Cathy Giessel and Kevin Meyer of Anchorage; Bill Stoltze and Charlie Huggins of Wasilla; Pete Kelly of Fairbanks; Anna MacKinnon of Eagle River, and Peter Micciche of Soldotna; and Democrat Donny Olson of the Northwest Alaska village of Golovin.
Opposed were Republicans Click Bishop of Fairbanks, Gary Stevens of Kodiak and Bert Stedman of Sitka. Also opposed were Democrats Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, Gardner and Johnny Ellis of Anchorage, and Dennis Egan of Juneau.
Anchorage Sens. Lesil McGuire, a Republican, and Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat, were absent. Both attended the memorial service in Anchorage for former Rep. Max Gruenberg on Thursday evening, and afterward Wielechowski said he would have voted against the bill if he could. Democrats had asked that Friday's vote on SB 89 be postponed but his request wasn't granted.
GOP senators tried to hold a same-day reconsideration vote on SB 89 after the measure passed Friday, over an objection from Gardner to delay it so that Wielechowski could participate. But the same-day effort failed to get the required 14 votes, and reconsideration will be taken up later.