Alaska’s delegation absent from brief urging reconsideration of Roe v. Wade

Alaska’s delegation absent from brief urging reconsideration of Roe v. Wade

Pro-life Sullivan and Young did not sign on

None of Alaska’s congressional delegation signed on to an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to visit Roe v. Wade, the court case which legalized abortion.

The brief was signed by a total of 207 lawmakers Thursday — 39 senators and 168 House Representatives representing 38 states — according to the text of the brief. Only two Democrats, Reps. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, and Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, signed the brief; the rest were Republicans.

The brief was written in support of a Louisiana state law requiring medical providers who perform abortions to be a licensed physician or have completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology or family medicine. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over that law March 4.

Absent from the list were all three of Alaska’s congressional representatives, including U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, both Republicans who have stated their opposition to abortion.

In an email, Sullivan’s communication director Mike Anderson called the senator a pro-life Catholic.

“As a father of three daughters, Senator Sullivan believes there is no greater gift than that of life,” Anderson wrote. “He has and will continue to support policies and legislation that value life and protect the rights of the most vulnerable.”

Anderson did not respond to questions asking why Sullivan did not feel the need to sign the brief.

Alaska’s other delegates, Young and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Young’s name was also not on the list of lawmakers. In a 2005 statement posted to his website, Young said his voting record shows he has been pro-life throughout his career.

“I believe that the loss of life through abortion is a great moral disaster, and I will continue to vote against any bills that would in any way promote the use of abortion as a method of family planning,” Young said in the statement.

Murkowski has said she opposes tax-payer funded abortions, but supports a woman’s right to choose. In a C-SPAN debate during her 2016 reelection campaign, Murkowski said she recognizes that through Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has ruled a woman has the right to choose. Murkowski said in the C-SPAN debate she also supports women’s access to other health care services that are sometimes provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood which also perform abortions.

“I also recognize though that it is important that when it comes to federal funding, for those who cannot abide the thought that their tax-payer dollars would be directed towards abortions that there be a separation,” she said at the debate in Anchorage in Nov. 2016.

‘A radically unsettled precedent’

Murkowski’s pro-choice record was seen as pivotal during the deeply partisan confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh has a record of anti-abortion decisions and pro-choice advocates warned that his confirmation could lead to Roe being overturned.

Murkowski voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, saying, “I believe Brett Kavanaugh’s a good man. It just may be that in my view he’s not the right man for the court at this time.”

Kavanaugh was ultimately appointed to the Supreme Court, the second conservative Justice to be appointed by President Trump after Judge Neil Gorsuch, whom Murkowski voted for. Sullivan voted for both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.

Lawmakers who signed the brief argued that the conditions for making abortions under Roe were so undefined as to be unworkable.

“Forty-six years after Roe was decided, it remains a radically unsettled precedent,” lawmakers wrote.

The Louisiana law in question is similar to a Texas law requiring abortion clinics follow the same centers as surgical centers and the doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

The Supreme Court stuck down that law in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, saying the restrictions place unreasonable restrictions on women trying to obtain abortions, according to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School.

Lawmakers, “respectfully suggest the (court’s) struggle to … define what ‘burden’ on abortion access is ‘undue’ illustrates the unworkability of the ‘right to abortion’ found in Roe,” according to the brief.

The brief asks the court to take up Roe again and if appropriate, overrule the law.

Counter brief

Democratic and Independent lawmakers filed their own amicus brief urging the court to uphold Roe.

”This case is significant not just for Louisiana. (The law) represents but one example of a recent wave of state legislation designed to impede access to abortion services and undermine this Court’s holdings in Roe, Casey, and Whole Woman’s Health,” the opposing brief says.

That brief was signed by Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.

Neither Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest and Hawaiian Islands nor Alaska Right to Life could be reached for comment Friday.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


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