Legislative action on abortion makes way for issue to take larger role in U. S. Senate race

On the heels of several anti-choice votes in the Alaska state Legislature, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund have launched a campaign to educate voters about candidates’ positions on women’s health issues. The campaign, the organization said, will be modeled on campaigns waged in the lower 48 that have brought attention to women’s health issues and have helped get pro-choice candidates elected.

Not only will the campaign target state lawmakers, it will also focus on the upcoming U.S. Senate race in Alaska, which Planned Parenthood has named as one of its “top electoral priorities.”

This past week, the House Finance Committee passed a bill that limits state funded abortions for poor women. It also stripped money for family planning for poor women, 90 percent of which would have been paid for by the federal government. Sen. John Coghill, a conservative from Fairbanks who has long been fighting to end abortion, said that he didn’t support the family planning money because that money would make its way to Planned Parenthood, which supports “population control” rather than family planning.

Until 2013, abortion and other social issues had for years taken a back seat in the Legislature, mostly because the majority in the Senate was bipartisan and the predominant issue was oil taxes. That’s changed since the last election, when two Democrats lost their seats and the majority turned Republican.

This legislative session, Republicans have also been holding hearings on how the state chooses its judges, and whether or not to change the state’s constitution to allow for school choice, all of which have been on the agenda of social conservatives in Alaska for years, and all of which, when mixed with abortion, will provide fodder for Planned Parenthood to label those conservatives as extremists who are “waging a war on women,” a phrase that’s been used successfully in political races across the country.

The Legislature’s actions on abortion have also opened the door to make the issue a larger one in the upcoming U.S. Senate than it likely would have otherwise been.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has been consistently pro-choice and hasn’t shied away from saying so. Three Republicans—Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell—are vying for the Republican nomination. Miller is considered the more conservative among the three, but Treadwell has been running as the “pro-life leader.” Sullivan, who is Catholic, says he’s pro-life but has kept the issue on the sidelines.

Sullivan’s silence on abortion, however, will continually get more difficult as Planned Parenthood and other groups press the issue.

Indeed, it appears that the state is more pro-choice than the state’s Legislature’s actions would suggest. A 2009 poll was the last big one that I could find on how Alaskans feel on the issue. In that poll, Celinda Lake, who is Sen. Mark Begich’s pollster, was hired by Planned Parenthood to poll 675 likely registered voters in the state. The poll found that 58 percent of Alaskans could be categorized as pro-choice, while only 37 percent could be classified as pro-life. (The full findings are below, as are the definitions of pro-life and pro-choice.) These numbers appear to be in the ballpark of current opinion, according to local pollsters.

Women also vote in greater numbers than do men. About 257,000 men were registered to vote in Alaska’s 2012 general election. Only 147,588 voted. In that same election, about 248,000 women were registered to vote and 152,075 did so.

Here’s the full findings from the Planned Parenthood poll:

  • Abortions should be legal and generally available and subject to only limited regulation: 28%
  • Regulation of abortion is necessary, although it should remain legal in many circumstances: 30%
  • Abortion should be legal only in the most extreme cases, such as to save the life of the woman or in cases of rape and incest: 28%
  • All abortions should be made illegal: 8%
  • Don’t know: 5%

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


6 thoughts on “Legislative action on abortion makes way for issue to take larger role in U. S. Senate race

  1. downtown Dem

    I commented earlier on this story. The more I thought about this story and my rage subsided, I wanted you to know that I agree with your prmises that this issue will now most likely be a point of consternation between Begich and Sullivan in the general election and plays well into the national strategy that Dems are creating as a result of the Republicans’ war on women. While I hope it will be helpful to Begich, the real question remains about just how red is this state.

  2. downtown Dem

    Once again the Republicans seem to unite to demonstrate their acute hypocrisy. Aren’t the Republicans the ones who pass out copies of the constitution? Aren’t they the ones who claim to want to protect one’s privacy? What about personal liberties? Well, I guess all those things are important until they decide they’re not. The Republicans are the ones that don’t want the poor to have an abortion paid for by public monies. Inm fact, theey want no abortions at all. They talk about their respect for life. It appears their respect is only limited to the fortunate, the rich. By their actions, they prove to have little regard or respect for the poor and the needy. To hell with medicaid expansion, welfate assistance and the like. The Republicans are mean-spirited, small minded bigots and hypocrites. I am absolutley disguusted by their actions ast week related to abortionm and their treatment of Planned Parenthood.

  3. North Pole Resident

    I want to go on record as being supportive of my Rep. John Coghil. I have been a supporter for years. Like Me he believes in God and respects the sanctity of life. Abortion is wrong and should be a crime. Planned Parenthood should be outlawed too. They are evil and are houses of devil worship and human destruction. They murder the unborn and preach sinful ways of seduction, sex and worst. I am proud of all of God’s christian soldiers that are marching together for God’s will to outlaw the ways of satan.

  4. Peters Creek Voter

    Who are these pathetic right wing idealogues that are. So crazed over this issue that it brings them to exhibit behavior like this? Outlawing abortion and not providing public funding is one thing. Eliminating money from Planned Parenthood for other services is just plain wrong. I iintend to to vote AGAINST every Republican this year and will be changing my party registration to independent. I am too embarrassed and feel betrayed to remaoin a Republican.

  5. douglas mom

    I watcheed this hearing. I cried. It made me very sad. It made me mad. Years ago, I worked in the legislature years ago and know John Coghill. He is a good man with a huge and caring heart; unfortunately, I think he has allowed his emotions to get the better of him. Normally he is not a vindictive or mean spirited person. His comments about Planned Parenthood are completely out of line. Whie my position on abortions are very different than Senator Coghill’s views, I respect him and his position. However, I do not respect the manner in which he is now being punitive towards Planned Parenthood. I hope PP’s efforts and political engagement will drive women to the polls and make their votes count.

  6. Sandy W.

    TGF Planned Parenthood. The Republicans wiill pay a price at the ballot box for theoir callous indifference and attempt to control women’s bodies. What in God;s name requires these men to think their actions are correct in the eyes of our creator. Come November, Women will have a chance to express their views at the ballot box.

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