OPINION: Alaska politicians, keep government small. Don’t restrict abortion rights.

To Alaska’s elected representatives, both state and federal:

Throughout this critical time in the evolution of abortion rights, it seems a minority of the voices making decisions and commenting publicly are those of women in their reproductive years — and even fewer are Alaska women. As a 20-something woman born, raised, and living in this state, allow me to shed some light on my expectations for my representatives as you proceed to legislate my reproductive rights in post-Roe America.

First, due to the Supreme Court’s astonishingly regressive decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, I urge you to codify abortion rights at the state and federal level, effective immediately. Second, I urge you to protect these rights regardless of viability. I specifically mention viability because Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted in May to block such a federal codification due to its lack of viability clause. This was short-sighted. Fetal viability will become earlier as science and medicine improve in coming decades, which will restrict women to an inadequate time period in which to make one of the most important and difficult decisions of our lives. While the circumstances of future decades may not be of concern to you, let me assure you: They are of great personal concern to the young women and girls whose reproductive rights you legislate.

You spent your childbearing years in an America in which you and your partners enjoyed the right to control your reproductivity and were allowed months in which to make a decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy. Think of all you have accomplished and experienced due to your right to plan your parenthood. Do not allow the generations who come after you to be stripped of that same right. Think of your rural constituents who need weeks or months to afford and arrange for travel to an abortion provider. Alaska should protect the right to an abortion later in a pregnancy than anywhere else in the country. The ability to plan parenthood is the single most important factor in achieving and maintaining gender equality, not to mention overall societal and economic welfare of individuals and families. We as a society have long agreed on the importance of gender equality — now is the time for you to support that stance with legislative substance.

Furthermore, it is no exaggeration to state that if males were the sex to bear children, abortion would undoubtedly be legal in any context, and it wouldn’t be shamed. Those working to ban abortion and contraception do so to restrict a woman’s ability to control her life’s determination under the guise of fetal protection. The opinion that an unborn fetus represents a “life” is a fine one to hold, but it is a religious one, and we are not a country where the laws are determined by religion. We must never allow the opinions of a religious group to dictate our country’s course or restrict the decisions of a woman and her health care provider — especially a woman with no association to such a religion. It is akin to outlawing pork or alcohol for all Americans due to the wishes of devout Muslim Americans. The United States recognizes no official faith, and our very framework clearly separates church and state. Freedom from state-condoned religious tyrants loomed as largely in the founders’ minds as their right to bear arms given the British monarchy’s divine-right doctrine — that one of these freedoms is being violated today while the other is expanded is absurd.

To conclude, if you have found yourself swept up in the tide of Trump-era “conservatism” or perhaps answering to interests misaligned with Alaskans’ priorities, let me remind you in no uncertain terms: privacy and freedom of choice matter deeply to Alaskans, regardless of politics du jour. From the early years of our statehood, even before Roe v. Wade, we were one of only four states to protect a woman’s freedom to choose abortion — and we required her to have no reason at all. I can think of no better evidence that Alaska women regard themselves as independent beings capable of making well-informed reproductive decisions without government bans or even guardrails. Uphold our values and codify abortion rights regardless of fetal viability. Keep government small — don’t tread.

Kathryn Miller is an Alaska woman of reproductive age. She lives in Juneau.

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