Alaska legislators take an oath to support and defend the constitutions of the United States and the state of Alaska. That oath is being blatantly violated by some anti-abortion legislators. Directly defying a decision by the Alaska Supreme Court last summer, this year's House-passed budget contains a ban on funding abortions for the poor.
The ban is arrogant, illegal and unenforceable. The Alaska Supreme Court settled the question in last summer's ruling. The Legislature cannot ban funding of medically necessary abortions as long as it pays for other medical services to pregnant women who are poor.
Whether anti-abortion legislators like it or not, that is the law of the land in Alaska. The only way to change it is by constitutional amendment. An amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each house and ratification by Alaska voters. Legislators cannot undo a provision of the Alaska Constitution simply by throwing a repeal provision into an obscure section of the annual state budget.
For some reason, some lawmakers just can't seem to grasp that basic concept. Last year, Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, and other anti-abortion legislators fought for the same cause with a different set of illegitimate tactics. With the abortion funding case pending at the Supreme Court, Sen. Kelly and others tried to browbeat the justices into a favorable ruling. They wrote a budget provision stripping all funding for the state Department of Health and Social Services if the court ruled the wrong way. Sen. Kelly also pushed another bill trying to dictate how the Alaska Supreme Court should interpret the state constitution's privacy clause in the abortion case.
The merits of state-funded abortions are no longer the issue here. The issue is whether the Alaska Legislature will uphold the Alaska Constitution and comply with the ruling of the Alaska Supreme Court.
The fate of the illegal abortion funding ban now rests with the Senate Finance Committee. For committee members, the choice is clear: Take out the abortion funding ban or violate the state constitution and their oath of office.
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