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    Bill clarifying that AK Constitution doesn’t protect abortion set for March 16 hearing

    By AlaskaWatchman.com

    The Alaska Legislature is awash in controversial debates about changing how judges are selected, ensuring election integrity and solving the state’s mounting fiscal crisis, to name a few. One topic that hasn’t gained much attention is abortion.

    That will change in the days ahead with a public hearing set for a bill introduced by Sen. Shelley Hughes’ (R-Palmer). Senate Joint Resolution 4 is a carbon copy of a bill that died in the last legislative session. The resolution aims to amend Alaska’s Constitution by stating: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution may be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the State to fund an abortion.”

    Sen. Shelley Hughes

    With the current environment in the Legislature, landmark legislation dealing with abortion will have a difficult time gaining meaningful traction. If approved by two-thirds vote of the House (which is controlled by Democrats) and two-thirds of the Senate, it would then be placed on the ballot for the next statewide election. A majority of Alaskans would then need to vote in favor of the amendment for it to become law.

    The wording of SJR 4 is nearly identical to a constitutional amendment passed last year in Louisiana, which makes clear that abortion is not a protected right and that no state dollars can go to pay for them. Since Roe v. Wade allows for abortion across the nation, the Louisiana law did not ban the practice, but it does set the stage for outlawing abortion if Roe is ever overturned.

    Hughes’ proposal is similar, except that it would immediately bar Alaska from continuing its practice of using public money to pay for abortions through the state-funded portion of Medicaid. To date, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the State Constitution demands that Alaska use public funds to foot abortion costs. All Alaska governors have acquiesced to the court’s ruling so far, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy, despite the fact that the Legislature has explicitly prohibited state funds from being used pay for most abortions.

    While the Alaska Supreme Court does not control the state’s purse strings, it nevertheless demands that Alaska set aside money for abortion.

    Alaska is one of 10 states to uphold a right to abortion based on state supreme court rulings. If Alaska passes the proposed constitutional amendment, however, it will join Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia and Louisiana which have constitutional amendments declaring that their state constitutions cannot be interpreted by judges to secure or protect a right to abortion or mandate that the state pay to have babies aborted. Kansas voters will decide the fate of a similar proposal in August 2022.

    Hughes’ amendment also addresses a controversy that has played out between the State Legislature and the Alaska Supreme Court for decades. Despite numerous bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law by various state governors, Alaska’s courts have blocked enforcement of virtually all efforts aimed at limiting or restricting abortion. These laws included initiatives passed requiring a minor girl to get parental consent before an abortionist can perform surgery on her. Another law merely required parental notification before the abortion. One law attempted to ban partial birth abortions. All of these, however, have been blocked or gutted by Alaska Supreme Court rulings over the past two decades.

    While the Supreme Court does not control the state’s purse strings, it nevertheless continues to demand that the state set aside money for abortion.

    The Alaska Supreme Court claims to have found a right to abortion in a 1997 case, Valley Hospital Association, Inc. v. Mat-Su Coalition for Choice, when it ruled that the state constitution guaranteed the right to abortion under its right to privacy section adopted back in 1972. The right to privacy section, however, was not established to guarantee abortion rights, but to protect Alaskans against invasive, personal data mining at the dawn of the computer age. Nevertheless, 25 years after the right to privacy was established the court claimed that abortion was included in this even though the word “abortion” is never once mentioned. Based on this ruling, the court has consistently held that it is a violation of the state constitution to impose any restrictions on abortion.

    Hughes’ proposal looks to remove any tactics the courts might conjure to uphold abortion by citing the state’s constitution.

    The resolution is currently assigned to the Senate Health and Social Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican Sen. David Wilson. An initial hearing is set for March 16 at 1:30 p.m. in which public testimony will be accepted.

    TAKING ACTION

    • To testify on SJR4, call one of the numbers below at 1:25 p.m. on March 16 and ask to be redirected to the Senate Health and Social Services Committee teleconferenced hearing so that you can testify on SJR4. Anchorage: call (907)-563-9085. Juneau: call (907) 586-9085. Fairbanks: call (844) 586-9085. All other locations call (844) 586-9085
    • Written testimony in support of SJR4 can be emailed to Sen. Hughes here: Senator.Shelley.Hughes@akleg.gov
    • Click here to contact the other members of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee.

    Click here to support the work of the Alaska Watchman.

    Joel Davidson
    Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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    4 Comments

    1. There is no State Constitution that I know of that and includes the US Consistutuion that does nothing more than protect Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It does not protect the right to kill any human being born or still in the womb. The Alaska Supreme Court can say what ever it wants to say but it does not have any lawful authority to demand that my tax dollars be used to fund abortion. The ASC needs to keep its nose out of the Legislatures business they do not write nor interrupt law by their own personal feelings. I commended my Senator for standing up for the rights of the unborn who deserve a life and did not choose to be discard like trash.

    2. My new normal: Appointing a standing Constition Committee in the legislature with authority to call committee into session twenty four seven to hear each and all infringement and to issue orders of remedy, that means damages, for each instance of institutional or personal infringement(s) of Constitutional rights including removing from office each public servant found evading and refusing to defend Constitutional rights. Such inquiries and redress should have been available to inhabitants since 1959 and has not been available and is not today. I believe this is a violation of the statehood contract. This omission and refusal to apply the constitution remedies needs immediate attention after the budget is completed for the coming year. Only then will Alaska be a safe place to invest proceeds of one’s productivity.

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