A group of mostly Republican lawmakers gather on the steps of the Capitol for an anti-abortion rally Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

A group of mostly Republican lawmakers gather on the steps of the Capitol for an anti-abortion rally Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

House Republicans introduce wave of anti-abortion bills before filing deadlines

One bill already has significant support

Republicans in the Legislature introduced multiple anti-abortion bills this session, with three being introduced Monday, just before this session’s bill-filing deadline .

One bill, introduced by Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, would prohibit abortions after a heartbeat is detected and already has 16 co-sponsors.

Nine other states have introduced so-called “heartbeat bills,” which can prohibit abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. However, some of those laws have been challenged in court, and just last Thursday, a ban on Mississippi’s heartbeat bill was upheld in a circuit court.

But Vance is convinced her support in the Legislature is reflective of Alaskan’s views on abortion.

“I feel that most Alaskans value life and want to see that protected. That’s how I was able to get 17 other sponsors,” Vance said. “This is representative of the will of Alaskans.”

Not everyone agrees. On Wednesday, pro-abortion rights groups will be giving testimony against SJR 13 at the Capitol. Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest and Hawaiian Islands, which oversees Planned Parenthood in Alaska, could not be reached for comment.

With 17 co-sponsors the bill already has nearly the 21 needed to pass. Vance said she approached representatives not based on party but based on their views of abortion.

“This is something that, for there to be this many members sign onto a piece of legislation like this is significant,” Vance said. “This is not my bill. This is our bill.”

In January a number of Republican and one Democratic lawmaker attended an anti-abortion rally on the steps of the Capitol.

“We have a significant force (in the Legislature) to work with you,” Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, told the crowd at the rally. “It’s a moral battle and a political battle.”

Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, introduced two bills Monday, one which would limit the age at which abortions can be performed to 20 weeks. The other says medical professionals providing abortions, “shall use the method of terminating the pregnancy that provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive after the child is removed from the pregnant woman’s womb.”

Additionally the bill calls for medical professional to provide the same care to the removed child as would be provided to any infant, and to keep that child alive.

Rasmussen could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sen. Shelly Hughes has introduced a bill which would add a constitutional amendment regarding abortion.

“To protect human life, nothing in this constitution may be construed to secure or protect a right to an abortion or require the State to fund an abortion,” the bill, SJR 13, reads.

Lastly, Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, has a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River, which would criminalize abortions and make performing an abortion considered murder.

However, Rep. Ivy Sponholz, D-Anchorage, told the Associated Press last year that as the chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, she would not hear the bill.

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

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