Throughout this critical time in the evolution of abortion rights, it seems a minority of the voices making decisions and commenting publicly are those of women in their reproductive years — and even fewer are Alaskan women. As a 20-something woman born, raised, and living in this state, allow me to shed some light on my expectations for my state and federal elected representatives as they proceed to legislate my reproductive rights in post-Roe America.
First, due to the Supreme Court’s astonishingly regressive decision to overturn Roe v Wade, I urge lawmakers to codify abortion rights at the state and federal levels effective immediately. Second, I urge them to protect these rights regardless of viability. I specifically mention viability because Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted in May to block such a federal codification due to its lack of viability clause. This was short-sighted. Fetal viability will become earlier as science and medicine improve in coming decades, which will restrict women to an inadequate time period in which to make one of the most important and difficult decisions of our lives. While the circumstances of future decades may not be of concern to lawmakers, let me assure you: they are of great personal concern to the young women and girls whose reproductive rights they legislate.
Elected officials spent their childbearing years in an America in which they and their partners enjoyed the right to control their reproductivity and were allowed months in which to make a decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy. Think of all they have accomplished and experienced due to their rights to plan their parenthood. They should not allow the generations who come after them to be stripped of that same right. They must think of their rural constituents who need weeks or months to afford and arrange for travel to an abortion provider. Alaska should protect the right to an abortion later in a pregnancy than anywhere else in the country. The ability to plan parenthood is the single most important factor in achieving and maintaining gender equality, not to mention overall societal and economic welfare of individuals and families. We as a society have long since agreed on the importance of gender equality — now is the time for lawmakers to support that stance with legislative substance.
Furthermore, it is no exaggeration to state that if males were the sex to bear children, abortion would undoubtedly be legal in any context, and it wouldn’t be shamed. Those working to ban abortion and contraception do so to restrict a woman’s ability to control her life’s determination under the guise of fetal protection. The opinion that an unborn fetus represents a “life” is a fine one to hold, but it is a religious one, and we are not a religious country. We must never allow the opinions of a religious group to dictate our country’s course or restrict the decisions of a woman and her health care provider. Especially, a woman with no association to such religion. It is akin to outlawing pork or alcohol for all Americans due to the wishes of devout Muslim Americans. The United States recognizes no faith and our very framework clearly separates church and state. Freedom from state-condoned religious tyrants loomed as largely in the founders’ minds as their right to bear arms given the British monarchy’s divine right doctrine — that one of these freedoms is being violated today while the other is expanded is absurd.
To conclude, if you have found yourself swept up in the tide of Trump-era “conservatism” or perhaps answering to interests misaligned with Alaskan priorities, let me remind you in no uncertain terms: privacy and freedom of choice matter deeply to Alaskans, regardless of politics du jour. From the early years of our statehood, even before Roe v Wade, we were one of only four states to protect a woman’s freedom to choose abortion — and we required her to have no reason at all. I can think of no better evidence that Alaskan women regard ourselves as independent beings capable of making well-informed reproductive decisions without government bans or even guardrails. Uphold our values and codify abortion rights regardless of fetal viability. Keep government small — don’t tread.
• Katie Miller is an Alaskan woman of reproductive age.