Court pick threatens privacy rights, reproductive freedom for women

President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is a real threat to the future of privacy rights and reproductive freedom of women in Alaska. By nominating Judge Kavanaugh, the president has made good on his promise to select judges who will overturn the Supreme Court‘s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. While Alaska has important constitutional protections in place protecting reproductive rights, Alaskans still should fear the prospect of living in post-Roe America.

The Roe decision has protected our health, safety, privacy and individual liberties for nearly half a century. The decision embraces a concept that Alaskans long have understood: that individuals should be free from unwarranted interference by the government in their personal lives, especially in connection with highly intimate decisions about family, child-rearing, medical care and choice of partner.

More than 20 years ago, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that the promise of privacy, expressly contained in Alaska‘s Constitution, protects a woman‘s right to make decisions about her medical and reproductive care, including decisions on whether to end a pregnancy by having an abortion. The court recognized the “uniquely personal” nature of a decision about whether and when to have a child, and to bear the physical, psychological, and economic implications of that decision. Most Alaskans agree that it simply is not the role of government to pressure or coerce women when they must make difficult reproductive decisions.

Notwithstanding these decisions by the Alaska Supreme Court based on the Alaska Constitution, future decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court can be of overarching consequence. Few states have felt the grip of federal overreach more than Alaska. Stated simply, and paraphrasing a popular slogan, what happens in Washington, D.C., definitely does not stay there.

Alaska women, like women everywhere, travel to other states. Some go to college or technical school out of state. Some travel for pleasure or adventure. Some serve in the military on bases in locations over which they have no choice. Overturning the decision in Roe would leave women who have reason to be out of Alaska with limited options and choices when they become pregnant. Many would either have to forgo some options, or have to travel back to Alaska to be able to exercise them. Some would have no realistic choice, because they will not have the resources to travel. And some, like women in the military, would not even have the ability to travel on their own choice and time. Rights that are so fundamental should not disappear from one side of a state border to the other. Alaska women should not lose their rights to make these personal decisions simply because they exercise their right to travel, work, or serve in the armed forces.

The workings of the U.S. Supreme Court can often feel distant and abstract, but its decisions impact people‘s lives in tangible and sometimes unpredictable ways. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the Supreme Court remains a safeguard against those who would deny our fundamental rights. Sen. Lisa Murkowski understands these issues well and has been a strong voice for privacy rights and reproductive freedom. She has made it known that she wants and needs to hear from Alaskans on this important issue and how the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh could affect Alaskans. We must speak up now and tell her why it matters to defend the constitutional right to access abortion and only confirm a nominee who will respect longstanding precedent rather than one selected to fulfill a political promise.

Susan Orlansky and Donald McClintock both have practiced law in Alaska for more than 30 years.

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