Alaska Supreme Court upholds state rejection of anti-abortion initiative

Richard Mauer

The Alaska Supreme Court Friday unanimously upheld a lower court decision that a voter initiative banning all abortions could not appear on the Alaska ballot because it was unconstitutional.

The 4-0 ruling, with officially retired but still-working Justice Walter Carpeneti not participating, said the abortion initiative was properly turned away by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell after an opinion in January 2011 by the Attorney General's office that it was unconstitutional.

The initiative's prime sponsor, Clinton DesJarlais of Anchorage, filed suit in Anchorage Superior Court in February 2011 to overturn Treadwell's ruling. Superior Court Judge Patrick McKay sided with the state and threw out DesJarlais' claims as against the U.S. and Alaska constitutions.

DesJarlais, an unsuccessful independent candidate for state Senate in 2010 who represented himself before the Supreme Court, had sought to ban abortions from the moment of conception. In the case of a pregnancy that threatened a woman's life, the initiative called on a physician or emergency responder to decide between the mother and fetus based on what DesJarlais termed the "law of necessity."

In its ruling, the court cited the 2011 Attorney General's opinion that DesJarlais' initiative "is intended to extinguish a woman's constitutional right to privacy as recognized by the United State Supreme Court and the Alaska Supreme Court."

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