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Alaska GOP lawmaker proposes bill that would define life as beginning at conception

Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News on

Published in Political News

JUNEAU, Alaska — A Republican state lawmaker has proposed a bill that could limit abortion access in Alaska by defining human life as beginning at conception.

Rep. Kevin McCabe of Big Lake is sponsoring a bill that would include new definitions of “person” and “life” under Alaska’s criminal statutes. The bill, which is unlikely to pass the full Legislature, was introduced last year.

The House Judiciary Committee heard more than an hour of public testimony on the bill Monday, the vast majority opposed to the measure.

In a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee last week, McCabe said his intention with the bill was not to limit abortion access — which is protected under the state constitution — but Deputy Attorney General John Skidmore said Friday that the bill “redefines a person to include a fetus,” meaning abortion providers could face criminal prosecution under the state’s statutes.

Skidmore said the bill would allow the Department of Law to file murder charges against abortion providers. However, he acknowledged that the Alaska constitution protects the right to abortion.

“Would those charges be allowed to move forward in the court system? That would be the subject of the litigation,” said Skidmore.

 

The Department of Law predicted that if the legislation were to advance, it “will be the subject of significant litigation surrounding language interpretation and how the legislation is applied,” in part because of the way it conflicts with the privacy clause in the Alaska Constitution.

Because of the likely litigation, the department said it could not determine the eventual cost of passing the legislation.

At Monday’s House Judiciary Committee meeting, several women testified describing their experience seeking abortions as a result of medical conditions or domestic violence that put their lives at risk. Surveys have consistently found that a majority of Alaskans support protecting abortion access.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said he supports limiting abortion access but would not advance legislation to that effect.

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