As a family physician who has the honor to work all over the state providing reproductive care to Alaskans and maternity education to providers, when I tuned in to watch Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s recent hour-long State of the State address, I was impressed by the presentation of policies and bipartisan efforts from his first term. Later, there was a headline in ADN that grabbed my attention: “Dunleavy says he wants Alaska to be the nation’s ‘most pro-life state.’” This headline drew attention to the governor’s seven-minute call to our communities rooted in shame and stigma. Alaskans should be very disappointed in this headline and Dunleavy’s underhanded statement. We deserve better.
The State of the State started in a productive direction, focusing on what I’ve seen firsthand to make an impact in our communities. As a physician, I was proud to see airtime dedicated to real policies that have impacted the patients I care for, such as ending the backlog of sexual assault kits with the forward vision to prevent future backlogs, the much needed updates to the legal definition of sexual consent, the need for further legislation around sex trafficking, and the proposed extension of Medicaid coverage for pregnant people through the full 12-month postpartum period. My patients require these supports to live healthy lives.
However, these wins were buried beneath the emotionally inflammatory proclamation in the closing statement about access to abortion care. The disturbing eugenics-inspired, big-government undertones dominating Dunleavy’s closing statement — that we need more Alaskans who value reproduction above all else — distracted from the positive strides our state has made, even contradicting the individualism emphasized earlier in Dunleavy’s address.
The attack on abortion is undeserving of the State of the State, and as off-base as the headline. The ADN article also acknowledged a poorly attended anti-abortion rally, distracting from more important topics such as the governor’s affirmation that “no means no” is now state law. The ADN should not amplify quotes that perpetuate fear amongst the many Alaskans already struggling to access comprehensive reproductive health. Fearmongering is not news.
Dunleavy undermines the fundamental Alaskan ethic of autonomy from the government while also absurdly accusing people seeking to prevent pregnancy of not liking people and being anti-family. This tangent is not backed by existing political action, making it clear that it was to indulge anti-abortionists whose support he is fearful of losing. Alaska, in counterpoint to this dramatizing headline, actually has policies that uphold abortion care. As we know, it is the lack of resources and geographical barriers that limit our access to reproductive care.
People should be trusted to know what is best for their health and their families, regardless of political ideating about population control. We as a community do not affirm the theories of someone in political power who doesn’t know our stories, lives or dreams for the future. This includes the decision to have abortions. Rather than shouting his alleged plan from the mountaintops, we should hold Dunleavy accountable for casting aside Alaskan voters who choose to have agency over when and whether to have children. My patients need headlines calling out elected officials for acting in their own political interests and devaluing Alaskan lives.
I am writing to share the knowledge I’ve gathered as I’ve sat and spoken with Alaskans for years, hearing their needs, their hopes and their concerns for our future. If we want young people to live and establish families in this state, we need to amplify voices of inclusion and understanding rather than inflammatory language that isolates Alaskans from access to critical health care.
Dr. Robin Holmesis a family physician providing primary care on the Kenai Peninsula, medical director of Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic and a current fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health.
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