The stories behind the proposed Positive Alternatives Act

The current push for the disturbing act also seeks to cover for the Parental Notification Data Act.

After years of pushing its radical agenda on the people of Minnesota, wilting the patience of even their most diehard allies, the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life is on a charm offensive, engaging in its own version of “Extreme Makeover” by pressing for a new piece of legislation – the misleadingly titled Positive Alternatives Act.

What’s new isn’t that the group is using focus-group happy talk to promote its legislation, what’s novel is its underhanded attempt to use this benevolent-sounding legislation to distract Minnesota’s pro-choice majority from the group’s sinister goal: eliminating the right of young women to access abortion and, at the same time, threatening the independence of the state’s judiciary.

But don’t be fooled. When you look closely at the Positive Alternatives Act, it’s nothing more than a gambit to obligate the state to pay for the promotion of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life’s religious and ideological viewpoint that pregnancy is compulsory. No ifs, ands or buts.

Moreover, in this era of acute fiscal crisis, taxpayers should be appalled by the arrogance of the Positive Alternatives Act. Every last nickel of the $2.5 million the bill makes available will end up in the coffers of crisis pregnancy centers, the sham, faux clinics that form the “provider arm of the anti-choice movement.” These centers operate by luring women with the promise of help. But once they arrive, young women are often inundated with false, misleading and frequently shaming propaganda about sexuality, contraception and abortion.

But remember, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life has much riding on the Positive Alternatives Act because, while attention is focused on it, the proverbial man behind the curtain is working to slip something even more sinister through the Legislature.

Pull back the curtain on the Positive Alternatives Act and the people of Minnesota will find a cudgel the group would like to use to impose draconian measures on young women in Minnesota and the judges sworn to protect the interests of us all.

Let me explain. Conservatives across the country have been steadily ramping up their already red-hot rhetoric surrounding judicial independence and threatening impeachment for their rulings in the Terri Schiavo case, while judges and their families have been targets for assault and murder in Illinois and Georgia. Meanwhile, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life has been doing its part to place Minnesota judges in the crosshairs.

Scheduled for inclusion in the massive House Health and Human Services omnibus bill later this month is an initiative that would radically add to Minnesota’s strict two-parent parental notification law for abortion and intimidate judges in the process. The provision, the Parental Notification Data Act, would require judges to provide the state with a county-by-county account of the number of judicial bypasses they have considered for minors seeking abortions without parental notification, regardless of outcome. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this would pave the way for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life to identify these judges for electoral defeat – or worse.

Minnesota’s judges are constitutionally obligated to grant bypasses or waivers to young women who can prove they are abused or can demonstrate they are mature and capable of informed consent. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life’s initiative is nothing more than a blatant attempt to intimidate local judges into refusing to grant waivers for fear of retribution.

Don’t forget, its ultimate goal – overturning the right to personal privacy guaranteed in Roe v. Wade – is one the majority of Minnesotans do not favor. That basic fact forces the group to walk a fine line, hoping to take the public’s eye off the ball long enough to get its legislation passed

Regrettably, the cloak and dagger strategy appears to be working. With the hullabaloo this year over the Positive Alternatives Act, the nefarious stealth campaign to make abortion inaccessible to young women has gone largely unreported.

The plotlines of a typical legislative session can be confusing, and it’s easy to lose track of all the stories coming out of the State Capitol.

But keep this in mind: Behind all of this – beneath the compassionate bill titles and the legislative legerdemain – is a very simple truth: Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life and its legislative allies want to impose their form of religious pluralism on all Minnesotans, regardless of judicial restraints, and they want to make us pay for it, too. If we let them get away with it, we will be on a slippery slope toward a state judiciary too scared of reprisal to be able to deal justice impartially.

Tim Stanley is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota. Please send comments to [email protected]