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Superior Court declares abortion funds veto unconstitutional

The court ordered the restoration of $334,700 to the budget of the state’s appellate courts.

The Alaska Superior Court has ordered Gov. Mike Dunleavy to restore $334,700 to the budget of the state’s appellate courts and declared his line-item veto of these funds unconstitutional, according to a proposed final ruling issued on Dec. 2.

The decision is the latest in a yearlong court battle that began when the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska filed a lawsuit against Dunleavy and his office on July 17, 2019, challenging the governor’s line-item veto of funds equivalent to the cost of state-funded abortions in the previous year, according to a summary released by the Governor’s Office on June 28.

Dunleavy included a line-item veto in the state’s budget, which reduced the budget of the state’s appellate courts by $334,700. At the time, Dunleavy stated that the veto was a response to the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision on Feb. 15, 2019, when it ruled that an Alaska statute restricting state-funded abortions to “medically necessary” cases was unconstitutional.

“The Legislative and Executive Branch are opposed to State funded elective abortions. The only branch of government that insists on State funded elective abortions is the Supreme Court,” Dunleavy said of his line-item veto on June 28, 2019. “The annual cost of elective abortions is reflected by this reduction.”

The ACLU released a statement Tuesday following the court’s final judgment and called on the governor to follow the court’s orders.

“The Dec. 2 judgement marks the end of a years-long battle to remedy the Governor’s brazen actions against Alaska’s independent judiciary, the separation of powers, and women’s health care,” the Dec. 8 statement from the ACLU read. “However, the ACLU of Alaska is preparing for more legal action by the state, which would prolong an already overdue course correction to fix the damage done by Alaska’s highest official.”

In response to the court’s decision, Maria Bahr with Alaska’s Department of Law said in an email Tuesday that the Department of Law is reviewing the matter to determine whether to file an appeal.

Alaska’s Legislature failed to override the governor’s veto and the budget reduction went into effect for FY 2020, but the court has ordered that those funds be restored in the FY 2021 budget within 30 days of the ruling.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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