From a bystander’s point of view, it feels as though Alaska is drowning in political campaigns and elections this year. Not only do we have to get used to a new way of voting, but we also have to sort out almost 50 candidates to find one poor soul to go to Washington, D.C., for less than a year in Don Young’s old seat. Not that it will be that hard. Don was really coasting these last few years. At his age, he probably had a right to coast a little.
But after we go through that exercise, then we have a primary in August in order to get to the actual election in November. Alaskans will not only be voting for someone to fill Don’s seat in D.C., but also someone to fill the governor’s seat in Juneau.
There are a lot of issues facing us in this election. Some national, some statewide. The first thing that comes to my mind is a woman’s right to control her own body. The Alaska Constitution’s privacy provision is such that it allowed for both the private consumption of marijuana long before it was actually legal and the right of a woman to make decisions concerning her own body. But any woman of fertility age in Alaska who thinks she’s protected should look up from her work and pay attention to what the politicians running for governor are saying.
Les Gara is a politician who has for some reason championed foster kids even though they are unable to give him huge campaign contributions or a cushy, high-paying job when he retires from public service. He has always been a firm supporter of women’s right to choose. Sadly, he is the only candidate currently running who can claim that.
Former Gov. Bill Walker, an honorable man who showed us he did have integrity during his last administration, claims that he can somehow split himself in half and, while his personal beliefs are pro-life, support a choice protected by our Alaska Constitution. Maybe he can. Maybe he can do it without actually wavering at all. And maybe I’ll suddenly be a size 4 and competing in the Miss Universe contest. Both are equally viable concepts.
Given the choice of candidates running for governor, I think anyone who knows me knows that I am backing Les Gara. And that is not because in our past lives we were both New Yorkers. It’s because of his support of foster kids, something dear to the heart of any of us who worked with those kids in the past and saw the potential that was being lost. But also because I know he won’t waver on this issue. Bill Walker, based strictly on the integrity he showed in his first term, is my second choice. I guess I hope that integrity will continue into a new administration, and he actually would stand firm on a woman’s right to choose.
You see, whether or not abortions are legal, they aren’t going away. They will just be pushed underground into situations that risk a woman’s life and health. Women have been getting abortions since the beginning of recorded history, though not always successfully. If you read history, you read about all kinds of natural herbs and concoctions being offered as sure-fire ways to end unwanted pregnancies. Sometimes those methods worked. Sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes a woman died. Sometimes she didn’t. Mostly it was a crapshoot to see what would happen.
We should be past those methods now. We should be using those medications and techniques that are known to be safe for the woman. We should not be sending abortions back to dark-alley providers. That is simply wrong. And we need a governor who understands a woman’s right to exert safe control over all parts of her body, not just the parts deemed acceptable by politicians.
I wish I could believe Gov. Walker was going to be as firm as he claims on this topic. But that’s a pretty big leap for someone who claims to hold very different personal views. I know Les Gara will stand firm on this topic because he has no conflict between his private and public views. And did I mention that he actually helps people who can’t afford to make him rich? Isn’t that the kind of person you want sitting in the governor’s office?
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska columnist and author. Her book “Coming Into the City” is available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.
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