Alaska Right to Life issued an open letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, on Dec. 29 praising him for being “a risk taker and history-maker, unconcerned with the vehement protests of those opposed to your pro-life stance.”
The letter, sent by Alaska Right to Life Director of Outreach Pat Martin, urges the governor to halt all state funding for Medicaid abortions. The issue goes back to 2001 when the Alaska Supreme Court issued a court order directing the Department of Health and Social Services to pay for every abortion invoice submitted on behalf of a Medicaid recipient regardless of existing pro-life laws or restrictions the Alaska Legislature places on abortion funding in the state’s operating budget.
The Legislature’s 2019 operating budget stated that “no money appropriated in this appropriation may be expended for an abortion,” except as provided for by the Title XIX of the Social Security Act which allows federal abortion funding “if necessary to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”
The Alaska Supreme Court’s order is in direct conflict with the Legislature’s budget restrictions. But since the Supreme Court does not control the state’s purse strings, it has no power to allocate funds for abortion.
“As a state, we must never again pay for a single child to be killed in his mother’s womb,” the Dec. 29 Alaska Right to Life letter states. It concludes by noting that ending Medicaid funding for abortion will not protect every child at risk of abortion, but it “will save more lives than every effort to protect children in the womb since abortion was legalized by the Alaska Legislature in 1970.”
Gov. Dunleavy is widely regarded as one of the most pro-life governors in Alaska’s history. Earlier this year, Alaska Right to Life organized a letter campaign that generated thousands of cards requesting that he halt all state funded abortions, which accounted for 805 of the 1253 abortions reported in Alaska in 2018. Alaska Right to Life leaders also met with Gov. Dunleavy on Dec. 3 to discuss this issue.
While many pro-life advocates in Alaska are working to restrict and ultimately end abortion, some differ with Alaska Right to Life’s strategy of publicly calling on the governor to defy the Supreme Court’s order. Jim Minnery of the Alaska Family Council addressed this on his radio show, Family Matters, shortly after Alaska Right to Life’s Dec. 3 meeting with the governor. Minnery said his pro-life and pro-family advocacy group employs a less public strategy when engaging directly with government officials who may be open to advancing pro-life public policies.