BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
Wasilla made rape victims pay
October 1, 2008
ONE QUESTION that Sarah Palin should answer during tomorrow's debate is why, during her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, the town started charging rape victims or their insurers for hospital emergency-room rape kits and examinations.
The policy so outraged the Alaska Legislature that in 2000 it passed unanimously a bill forbidding such fees. But Palin has never explained why, under her leadership, the town stopped picking up the cost of the swabs, specimen containers, and tests.
A spokeswoman for Palin wrote to USA Today that Palin "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test." But that was the practice in Wasilla while she was mayor.
If Palin were like most vice-presidential nominees of the past, reporters would have long since had a chance to quiz her on this subject, and many others. So far, though, the McCain campaign team has treated her as though she were in the witness protection program, permitting just three interviews with television personalities and no open-ended press conferences.
After the Alaska Legislature banned the fees, Palin's handpicked police chief, Charlie Fannon, complained that the state's action would force the town to spend $5,000 to $14,000 a year to cover the costs. "I just don't want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer," Fannon said.
But the policy on rape kits may have had less to do with easing the burden on taxpayers and more to do with Palin's position on abortion. She has said she opposes it even in cases of rape or incest.
Generally, victims of sexual assault have the option of an emergency contraception pill, which some opponents of abortion consider tantamount to abortion itself. Does Palin support the decision two years ago of the US Food and Drug Administration to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception pills?
Whether the fee-for-kits policy reflected Palin's budgetary zeal or her extreme view on abortion, voters deserve to know. As Alaska's governor in 2000, Tony Knowles, put it: "We would never bill the victim of a burglary for finger-printing and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence."
But in Wasilla they would, if the crime was rape.