Thursday, March 01, 2007

[Updated] My kingdom for some privacy rights

[Update: Nancy Bennett of Planned Parenthood emailed me a correction: I want to clarify something that you posted today on the Right to Privacy bill put for by the Libertarian Party. You suggested that Planned Parenthood knew of the proposal, but didn’t reach out to the Libertarian Party. I am sorry if I was confusing on the phone yesterday, but I wanted you to know that in fact, we only learned of the proposal a few days before the deadline to drop bills (basically last week). What was frustrating to me is that I learned last week that the Libertarian Party had been sitting on this idea for a year and only now was contacting potential supporters – again just a few days before the deadline. Until last week, I’d never heard of this proposal.

In any case, as I mentioned, we would welcome the opportunity to have a conversation about this issue, but we need time review the language and assess our organizational resources.
So it appears that the overtures, at least to PP, could only have come from the LPO. Thank you to Nancy for the clarification]

The Libertarian Party of Oregon's privacy amendment seems to be on life support, at least for now.

The proposal now has a number: Senate Joint Resolution 36 (SJR36) and was introduced without sponsors via the Senate Commerce Committee.

As I mentioned previously, the bill had several Dems on board prior to Planned Parenthood and NARAL's intervention--and then they subsequently bailed. There were GOPers on board too--and after the Right To Life toadies did their thing, all but Brian Boquist jumped ship.

According to Ben Westlund's staffer Stacey Dycus, their office was told by legislative counsel that the language may actually decrease privacy rights, especially surrounding abortion. It seems that counsel believes that naming the right--rather than just having it implied--causes that concern. Not being a legal beagle, I'm not sure how that would play out.

Interestingly, the Montana Constitution has a virtually identical clause and Planned Parenthood of Montana considers it crucial to their efforts.

Dycus also mentioned that these concerns were aired with Richard Burke of the LPO, who told them that he wasn't especially concerned about the bill going anywhere or getting a hearing (something he's also said to me--although he said he'd like it to be debated). Dycus noted that Burke said he wanted the bill introduced to help build the Libertarian Party.

Nancy Bennett from Planned Parenthood of Oregon told me that their organization definitely supports the concept behind the LP's proposal. Bennett said that PP knew that the LPO had brought the issue up last year at their convention, but that the LPO had never contacted or coordinated with PP for the purposes of going to the legislature to get the idea on the ballot.

Bennett said that the LPO dropped the bill very close to the deadline and hadn't given the organization the time they needed to review its language and possible legal ramifications. Therefore Planned Parenthood decided to warn legislators that they weren't on board with the legislation.

Similarly, Treasure Mackley of NARAL also noted that their organization was aware of the LP's privacy amendment but wasn't contacted either. Mackley warned that a Constitutional Amendment is "a very serious matter" and that NARAL wanted an opportunity to have their attorneys review the language and for the organization to do an assessment of their resources to support the measure once it was on the ballot. "When you run a ballot measure campaign you have to look at alliances", Mackley said. "Who will support it? Who will run it? Organizational allies matter."

Mackely also expressed concern that without the appropriate infrastructure to support a Measure like this--it could fail. "It would be highly detrimental if it went forward and failed", she said.

I agree with Mackley and Bennett that they needed time to coordinate with the LPO on this issue and that had the LPO made the appropriate overtures there likely wouldn't be a problem. The bill's language does matter and its crucial to make sure that the legalities are covered. Its also important to have the proper infrastructure to coordinate a campaign for a ballot measure. That said, both Planned Parenthood and NARAL knew that the LPO had this proposal. Its craptackularly lousy that at least one of these groups didn't make overtures to the LPO about it.

It is a two way street, after all.

And in the meantime, an excellent proposal to grant privacy rights to all Oregonians will likely languish in a Senate Committee. So far the leadership on moving this along has been practically nonexistent.

Hopefully, this will at least open the doors to a discussion. Now that the groups see that they have a similar interest perhaps they can still coordinate for a signature gathering effort to get this on the ballot. Its certainly not too late.