Participants in a pro-choice abortion rally gather outside the Governor’s Residence on Saturday to demand a pro-life flag flying at the entrance be taken down. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Participants in a pro-choice abortion rally gather outside the Governor’s Residence on Saturday to demand a pro-life flag flying at the entrance be taken down. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Pro-choice abortion protesters march to Governor’s Residence to demand removal of pro-life flag

Rally on second anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision also focuses on fall election.

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of LaRae Jones.

About 50 pro-choice demonstrators observed the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned the national right to an abortion, on Saturday by marching from Marine Park to the Governor’s Residence where they demanded a pro-life flag hanging outside the front entrance be removed.

The court’s ruling did not affect abortion rights in Alaska due to a right-to-privacy clause in the state’s constitution. But the issue remains politically contentious in the state and the pro-life flag has been flying outside the mansion since shortly before the first anniversary of the court’s ruling, along with the U.S. and Alaska flags.

“That anti-choice flag is flying at the Alaskans’ house,” said Nancy Courtney, president of the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition (JPCC), during a speech to rally participants at Marine Park. “The governor’s house is the Alaska people’s house.”

Rally participants, carrying signs and chanting while a multitude of cruise ship visitors watched, proceeded up the hill to the Alaska State Capitol, then along the sidewalk to the Governor’s Residence a few blocks away. The governor was not inside at the time and there was no interaction from anyone who might have been inside with the protesters.

A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in an email to the Empire shortly after the flag appeared, stated “the governor is unapologetically pro-life. Every person conceived deserves the right to life, and the governor wanted to fly the pro-life flag to show his support for this basic human right.” Alaska statute doesn’t specifically ban or allow flags beyond the official U.S. and state flags that are required to be displayed at state buildings.

LaRae Jones, a JPCC member since the late 1990s, said fundraising by the organization that helped open a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Juneau in 2009 and changes at the national level incrementally restricting abortion rights are the most notable developments during the period.

She said while the Dobbs decision doesn’t directly change rights in Alaska and a rally such as Saturday’s might not change the minds of observers, it’s important to continue the coalition’s work of making people aware of current developments related to abortion rights and vetting political candidates for their position on the issue.

“I think anytime you’re restricting women’s rights anywhere it affects women in Juneau,” she said.

Political participants in the rally included state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, a Juneau Democrat, and local campaign staff for Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, with both officials seeking reelection this fall. Kiehl. standing near the twin flagpoles outside the mansion, noted that having the Alaska flag directly above the pro-life flag on one of the poles on a day with little wind meant the latter wasn’t particularly visible.

“I like that the Alaska flag is sort of wrapping up and smothering the anti-choice flag,” he said.

“Marching and holding signs and shouting at buildings — because let me tell you, (the governor) doesn’t live here — can make us feel great, and it stands up for what’s right,” Kiehl said. But what matters, he added, is despite the fact he and Juneau’s two other local Democratic legislators are unopposed this fall “we need to turn out pro-choice, pro-freedom voters here in Juneau to tip the balance in a statewide race.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Nancy Courtney, president of the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, speaks to participants in a rally Saturday at Marine Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Nancy Courtney, president of the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, speaks to participants in a rally Saturday at Marine Park. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Pro-choice rally participants chant and carry signs as they walk along Calhoun Avenue toward the Governor’s Residence on Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Pro-choice rally participants chant and carry signs as they walk along Calhoun Avenue toward the Governor’s Residence on Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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