Thursday, December 17, 2009

“An army of petition circulators from parishes across the state of Alaska”

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Archbishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage, formerly Bishop of Duluth,puts full weight of Church behind Alaska parental notification initiative, says petitions may be circulated in parishes -- and should be promoted from the pulpit

As of Dec.8, 31,000 signatures had been collected on a petition for a ballot initiative that would allow Alaska voters to decide whether abortion practitioners should be required to get consent from – or at least notify – parents before performing an abortion on a minor girl. However, at least 11,000 more signatures are still needed in order to ensure that the initiative can be placed on next year’s primary election ballot.

According to state law, 32,734 signatures are required but to make up for names that may be invalid for various reasons, organizers are seeking an additional 11,000.

Alaskans for Parental Rights, the leading organization behind the initiative, said Catholic support for the initiative has made a large impact on the success of the petition drive.

Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz asked Catholics across the archdiocese to sign the petition, and he has strongly encouraged all 32 parishes in the archdiocese to support the drive from the pulpit and in bulletins and Web sites -- and to host signature-gathering volunteers at church.

“Alaskans for Parental Rights would like to thank Archbishop Schwietz for his support of this initiative,” said the group’s campaign organizer Kelly Foreman in a Dec. 8 email to the Anchor. “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.”

Additionally, hundreds of volunteers from other Christian denominations are also collecting signatures statewide in more than 200 churches.
Foreman explained that the state requires signatures to be gathered from 30 of the 40 House Districts, meaning names cannot all come from large population centers but must also represent people from rural villages like Dillingham, Bethel and Tok.
According to Foreman, the minimum number of required signatures has been met in 10 House districts and 10 more districts need less than 100 signatures.

“Our goals at this point are to keep collecting signatures and to get signed petitions traded out with new ones so we can check the signatures against the voter record,” Foreman said. “This petition initiative is an opportunity to make an incredible impact on Alaska. Parental rights will be safeguarded, teen health will be protected and the lives of the unborn will be saved.”

In a Sept. 3 letter to Catholic parishes, Archbishop Schwietz noted that in Alaska, “Girls as young as 12 years old can now have abortions without the guidance, consent or knowledge of their parents.”

According to the latest report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 369 Alaska teens had abortions in 2006. Of those 74 were 16 years or younger; 54 abortions were performed on teens 17 years old; 117 abortion were performed on teens 18 years old and 124 to those who were 19 years.

Organizers of the petition drive are looking to file all signatures by the end of December, but first must verify names against voter registration records.
In November 2007, the Alaska Supreme Court overturned a state law the legislature overwhelmingly passed in 1997 that required parental consent before an abortion on a minor girl. Elsewhere in the U.S., parental consent or notice laws are on the books in over half the states.

Here is the full text of Archbishop Schwietz’s letter to parishes in the archdiocese:

September 3, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the coming weeks you may be hearing more about a signature-gathering effort to place before the voters an initiative that would ensure parental involvement in a minor child’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. I support this initiative and I hope that you will encourage your faith community and others you know to do so, as well.

The goal of this effort is to gather approximately 40,000 signatures of Alaskan voters by October 6th in order to place this initiative on the August 2010 ballot. You can view the entire bill at www.elections.alaska.gov/petitions/09PIMA.pdf.

In November of 2007, there were only 14 states that do not have a parental involvement law. Supporting this effort will let voters decide this important issue.

While we are prohibited from endorsing a particular political candidate on Church property, the same restriction does not apply when discussing an issue of public policy. You may actively support this initiative from the pulpit, in your community’s bulletin or web site and by having trained personnel (“circulators”) solicit signatures on Church property or by taking to the streets with petition forms. You can get more information on how to be certified to collect signatures by contacting Kelly Foreman, Campaign Coordinator for “Alaskans for Parental Rights,” at 907-602-8249 or by email at kelly@alaskansforparentalrights.org. You can find more information on this initiative by visiting www.alaskansforparentalrights.org.

By encouraging your community to sign this petition, you are sending a strong message that Alaskan parents should be involved in the healthcare decisions of their children. Thank you for your efforts to encourage a culture of life.

Sincerely Yours in Christ Jesus and Mary,

Most Rev. Roger L. Schwietz, OMI
Archbishop of Anchorage

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