Opinions

OPINION: I will fight for Alaska women’s health rights

Supreme Court

With the release of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the rights of Americans regarding medical freedom have been set back half a century. Because of the decisions of earlier courts that held the constitution to be more important than partisanship, we Americans have reproductive rights acknowledged in law. The rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey established and confirmed these basic human rights that are now being stripped away by a reactionary court. I remember when the Roe ruling came down, and I will fight to enshrine abortion rights in federal law if elected to the U.S. Senate from Alaska this November.

Like many of my fellow Alaskans, I am outraged that the government is once again insinuating itself into the private medical decisions of Americans across our country. We cannot allow a reactionary court to negate these fundamental rights, especially when a strong majority of Alaskans and Americans have consistently supported a person’s right to make their own medical decisions, without government interference, for decades.

According to polling data from March 2022 by the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans oppose abortion bans in all or most cases, with just 37% opposed.

Polling of Alaskans by Lake Research Partners has shown similar results, with 59% opposing abortion bans, including 34% of Republicans. Yes, 34% of Alaska Republicans oppose banning abortion.

Alaskans value freedom, and that includes medical freedom.

The Alaska Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the Alaska state constitution’s privacy clause protects women’s reproductive freedoms. However, longtime Republican U.S. Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, who for years has been instrumental in packing federal courts with reactionary anti-abortion judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, has said that a national abortion ban — including in Alaska — would be possible with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

As Alaskans, we now have to be concerned that an abortion ban in Alaska could be in our future. Our state’s privacy protections are notable, but if the U.S. Supreme Court can find a way to circumvent the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, where Americans are guaranteed that the government will not deprive us of the basic rights to life, liberty and property, then we don’t know what is next. Medical rights are human rights, and recognizing this fact and codifying it as the law of the land must happen at the federal level. Only then will Americans be protected from meddling government oversight into their most personal life decisions.

Every 10 years, Alaskans have the opportunity to have a state constitutional convention. Extremists with ties to dark money groups from Outside are pushing for a convention so they can write a constitutional prohibition on abortion. We must stand vigilant at every turn to preserve and expand rights, not reduce them.

We are losing fundamental medical rights, on both the state and national level. We must fight to reverse that trend. I will unflinchingly fight for the rights of Alaskans and of all Americans to access the medical care they need.

Pat Chesbro is a mother, retired educator, and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Palmer.

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