Abortion initiative ruled unconstitutional

Sean Cockerham | Tribune Media Services

Alaska attorney general John Burns has found unconstitutional a proposed ballot initiative that was essentially seeking to outlaw abortion in Alaska.

"The proposed bill meets the 'clearly unconstitutional' standard because it would supersede a woman's constitutional right to privacy," said the opinion, released late Monday. "This right is a federal constitutional right recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade."

Burns, who started work as the new attorney general last month, is recommending that the lieutenant governor refuse to certify the "Natural Right to Life" initiative.

The initiative tries to make it Alaska law that "the natural right to life and body of the unborn child supersedes the statutory right of the mother to consent to the injury or death of her unborn child."

The main sponsor is Clinton Desjarlais of Anchorage, who unsuccessfully ran as an independent for state Senate last fall. He had another initiative rejected as unconstitutional this summer that tried to say "an abortion may not be permitted in this state."

A different group of sponsors had pushed an initiative seeking to oppose abortion by declaring fetuses to be "legal persons." But the sponsors failed on Nov. 5 to turn in their signatures within a year after filing the initiative, as is required.

Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.