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Home » Event » NEWS: Legal Opinion of Senate Bill 191 Raises Many Constitutional Issues

NEWS: Legal Opinion of Senate Bill 191 Raises Many Constitutional Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2016

Legislative Legal Services Says Senate Bill 191 Raises Many Constitutional Issues

Bill Prohibiting Employees of Abortion Service Providers from Delivering Instruction or Distributing Material in Public Schools Likely Unconstitutional

JUNEAU – Today, the Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 191, sponsored by Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla) and co-sponsored by Senator Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage). The bill would impose harsh disciplinary sanctions on employees or affiliates of abortion services providers who deliver instruction regardless of subject, or distribute materials in public schools. It provides for civil penalties in which teachers could have their teaching certificates revoked, doctors lose their licenses to practice medicine, and would eliminate state funds for teachers and school board members.

Senator Berta Gardner who sits on the Senate Education Committee requested an opinion from the Division of Legal Services of the Legislative Affairs Agency to ascertain whether the proposed bill contained any constitutional violations. The opinion was provided to Sen. Gardner’s office this week.

SB191 was found to be constitutionally problematic in several areas:

1)      Freedom of speech and freedom of association in the U.S. and Alaska State Constitutions.
2)      Bills of Attainder in both the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions, and
3)      Violation of equal protection in both the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions.

The opinion provided specific examples of problematic consequences of the bill including:

“It would prevent a doctor who performs abortion services from volunteering to assist with instruction in a science class on a matter entirely unrelated to human sexuality…”
“Teachers are essentially excluded from employment at public schools if they are also employed by, or act as representatives of abortion service providers, even if their association with the abortion services provider happens exclusively in off-work hours or is unrelated to abortion services.”

The full legal opinion can be read [here], and the text of the bill can be read [here]. There is no sponsor statement available.

“This bill is so rife with problems, I don’t know where to start,” said Sen. Gardner. “By the time I finished reading the legal opinion it became crystal clear that this bill is motivated by politics and not good public policy. The thought of teachers losing their teaching certificates, and doctors losing their licenses to practice medicine because someone in the government doesn’t like what they do in their free time is indefensible in a free society. That’s not how it works in this country.”

The hearing on SB191 will take place at 3:30pm today in the Butrovich Room in the Capitol.

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