Abortion Ban Protest

Protestors largely in support of abortion rights gather during a rally protesting Rep. David Eastman's proposed abortion ban bill at the corner of Cowles Street and Airport Way Tuesday afternoon, May 21, 2019. Around 200 people filled the four corners of the intersection, about 40 of them anti-abortion activists staging a counter-protest, waving signs and chanting to the passing traffic.

Several Fairbanks area lawmakers are sponsoring a number of pieces of anti-abortion legislation in the Alaska House and Senate. 

House Bill 302, introduced Monday, seeks to outlaw abortion after a fetus is shown to have a heartbeat, typically around six weeks into the first trimester, which can often be before a woman realizes she is pregnant, according to the American Pregnancy Association. 

The six-week mark is common language for legislation across the country known as “heartbeat bills,” which have been passed in a number of states, such as Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio, within the last year.

HB 302 has gained the support of Interior Reps. Dave Talerico, R-Healy; Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks; and Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks.

Freshman Anchorage Republican Rep. Sara Rasmussen, who cosponsored HB 302, also introduced House Bills 284 and 283. 

HB 284 would outlaw the practice of late-term abortions, specifically when the fetus is at 20 weeks or more.

Late-term abortions are often categorized as abortions performed in the late-second or third trimester of a pregnancy and are more often than not performed due to medical complications that endanger the woman’s life, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The same organization notes these complications can include conditions such as “premature rupture of membranes and infection, preeclampsia, placental abruption and placenta accreta.”

The bill allows for abortions to be performed after the 20-week mark if deemed medically necessary for the survival of the woman but requires medical professionals to use an abortion method that ensures the best chance for the fetus to be viable outside the woman’s body. According to the Mayo Clinic, fetuses are typically viable outside the body by 24 weeks at the earliest, at which point medical care is necessary to ensure the fetus survives.

The bill also allows abortions after 20 weeks if the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault or incest.

House Bill 283, also introduced Monday, would require medical professionals to provide any fetus that survives a late-term abortion the “same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to a child born alive at the same fetal age in the course of a natural birth.”

All three bills were referred to the House Health and Social Services and Judiciary Committees.

In the Senate, a constitutional amendment has been proposed to add a section to the Alaska Constitution under the right to privacy clause, stating, “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.”

Senate Joint Resolution 13 has gained the support of North Pole Sen. John Coghill. 

Last year, Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman sponsored a bill that sought to outlaw abortion outright and further change state law to categorize abortion as murder, listing it as a felony crime — a bill that sparked protests and counter-protests across the state, including in Fairbanks.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 with the ruling on the case Roe v. Wade. 

Alaska was only one of four states to legalize abortion before the court’s ruling.

The Alaska Constitution, as interpreted by the Alaska Supreme Court, protects the legal right to abortion — more than the federal constitution in fact, according to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, who told Alaska Public Media in 2018 that if Roe v. Wade were to be repealed, nothing would change in Alaska.

HB 302 is co-sponsored by Reps. George Rauscher, R-Sutton; Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River; Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River; DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer; Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla; Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage; Mel Gillis, R-Anchorage; Ben Carpenter R-Nikiski; Cathy Tilton, R-Chugiak/Mat-Su; Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake; Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage; Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage; Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage; and Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

SJR 13 is co-sponsored by Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna; David Wilson, R-Wasilla; Donny Olson, D-Golovin; Mia Costello, R-Anchorage; and Mike Shower, R-Wasilla. 

The resolution was referred to the Senate Health and Social Services, Judiciary and Finance Committees. 

Monday was the deadline to introduce new bills to be considered this session.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.