Les Gara. (Courtesy photo / Les Gara)

Les Gara. (Courtesy photo / Les Gara)

We need a governor who protects reproductive rights because he believes in them

That’s why I’ll be voting for Les Gara.

  • By Cindy Smith
  • Monday, February 7, 2022 2:13pm
  • Opinion

By Cindy Smith

On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, a decision which has protected a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion for nearly 50 years. Today it is under threat as never before. If Roe is overturned, the decisions about your rights will be made by our state government.

This makes it critical that Alaska elect a pro-choice governor, and Les Gara is the only pro-choice candidate in this race.

Since January of 2021, according to the Guttmacher Institute, there have been more than 561 abortion restrictions, including 165 abortion bans, introduced across 47 states. A whopping 83 of those restrictions were enacted across 16 states, including 10 bans.

Reproductive rights should not be up for grabs in Alaska. Your personal medical decisions should be made by you and your doctor, not by politicians. Gubernatorial candidate Les Garawill protect your rights because he believes in them. This cannot be said for either the current governor or former Gov. Bill Walker.

The current governor has extreme views on reproductive rights and many other issues important to women. This year, for instance, he used public funds to join a lawsuit that defended the infamous Texas abortion “bounty” ban, which allows private citizens to collect cash rewards for “reporting” anyone who either had or aided in an abortion.

Both current Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Walker pursued court cases restricting poor women’s access to abortions, even though those restrictions had already been found unconstitutional in Alaska in prior cases. Though he was urged not to pursue this case, Governor Walker, who is personally opposed to abortion, nonetheless did so.

While a legislator, Dunleavy wrote and pushed for a bill to restrict sex education in our schools, and Walker let that bill become law. Gara voted against this bill. Alaska, which has the highest rate of child sexual abuse and sexual assault and one of the highest rates for sexually transmitted disease in the nation, now places more restrictions on teaching young people about reproductive health than it does on any other form of health education.

In fact, Gara has been an ally on choice issues for over 16 years as a legislator, even when it might have been easier to do otherwise. A governor’s decisions matter, and we need a governor who protects reproductive rights because he believes in them.

Gara supports support long-term contraception prescriptions for women and age-appropriate science-based sex education for young people, both of which reduce unintended pregnancies. He won’t allow the Department of Law to pursue cases that restrict women’s access to health care, including abortions. He won’t appoint judges to the bench who would roll back legal precedent on choice.

This election, with ranked choice voting, your first choice should be for the candidate who will protect your choices. That’s why I’ll be voting for Les Gara.

• Cindy Smith is a longtime resident of Juneau who served on the boards of the Juneau Women’s Council, the Alaska Women’s Lobby, and the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition. She was the director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for 7 years, and served as staff to Gov.Tony Knowles, Re. Les Gara and Sen. Hollis French.Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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