Opinions

As governor, I’d protect women’s right to choose

Last week, the United States Supreme Court put a woman’s right to choose on the front-burner in this governor’s race. Women should have the right to make their own private health care decisions. As hardline Supreme Court Justices prepare to roll back Roe v. Wade, they’ve made state abortion laws the last line of defense for women’s choice.

We can protect these rights in Alaska. But that depends on who you elect. As the only pro-choice governor candidate in this race, I’ve been an ally on choice my whole legislative career. I’ll always remain one.

As the only candidate for governor who believes women have the right to make these private decisions without government interference, and the only one who hasn’t acted to try to roll back women’s choice when in office, I want you to know we can protect these rights.

I wouldn’t question those whose religious and personal values take them to a different conclusion. But I’ll always be honest about my values.

There are many crucial issues facing this state. But with a woman’s right to choose coming under attack, you have a right to know where I stand on choice. You’ll find solutions on other critical issues at www.lesgara.com. They include ending unaffordable oil company subsidies so we can afford to build a better future with needed jobs, better schools and more opportunity. Smart renewable energy will reduce high energy costs, create jobs and help address climate change.

But today you deserve to know we can protect the right to choose in Alaska. As governor, I’d never let my attorney general try to roll back a woman’s right to choose. That’s something both other major candidates have allowed.

Govs. Mike Dunleavy, Bill Walker and I have all had our time serving in elected office. I’m the only one who stood up for women’s choice in office, because those are privacy rights I believe in.

Gov. Dunleavy has extremist views on this and many issues. This year he used your money on lawyers to side with a radical Texas law effectively banning choice.

In contrast, Gov. Walker is hardly an extremist. But he’s expectedly made decisions based on his deeply held pro-life values. There should be no confusion that we share the same values on choice. His pro-life values let him allow his attorney general to sue to try to roll back a woman’s right to choose when he was governor.

I would never appoint an attorney general who’d try to overturn your right to choose, and would fire them if they did.

In fairness, in this race former Gov. Walker states he’s “pro-life” but will uphold our constitution. That works as long as courts say our constitution protects the right to choose. While I respect the offer, it isn’t a promise to defend a woman’s right to choose.

Alaska’s right to choose isn’t written into our Alaska Constitution, just like the teetering federal right to choose isn’t written in the U.S. Constitution. Under Alaska and federal law, that right is the product of longstanding court rulings. One danger to choice in Alaska is that new judges could reinterpret the Alaska Constitution to roll back the right to choose, just as newer U.S. Supreme Court justices are about to reverse caselaw that protected your federal constitutional right to choose.

Former Gov. Walker has offered as much as he can without violating his personal values. I like him personally. We have differences but work across party lines. I’ll list him as my second-choice candidate in November under our new ranked-choice voting law.

But I’ll want to know whether prospective judges would roll back our court precedent on choice. I don’t want judges like the six U.S. Supreme Court justices who signaled last week that they’ll overturn Roe v. Wade.

I’ll oppose a constitutional convention, which is on the ballot in 2022. Extremists want a convention so they can eliminate a woman’s right to choose, and adopt fringe ideas they refuse to reveal.

I’ll veto anti-choice legislation, even if future courts weaken your constitutional right to choice.

I’ll make sure women have a right to safe contraception with long-term prescriptions. Women shouldn’t have to worry about rushing to the pharmacy while they’re busy with work, family and life. Missed prescriptions mean more unintended pregnancy.

Last election, like this one, former Gov. Walker ran with a pro-choice lieutenant governor. He tried to avoid social issues like this as governor. But a governor’s core values matter. Those values allowed him to let his attorney general go to court to try to roll back the right to choice for low-income women, and challenge gay marriage (today, he acknowledges that’s now a constitutional right). I wouldn’t have allowed my attorney general to do either.

To me, and most Alaskans, choice is a privacy right worth strongly protecting.

Les Gara was a legislator from 2003-2018. He was an assistant attorney general on the civil prosecution of Exxon after the Valdez Oil Spill. His wife Kelly is a hospital wound care specialist. They have lived in Alaska since 1988.

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