Fairbanks Representatives comment on abortion bill HB 178

FAIRBANKS, Alaska Representative David Eastman and Representative Sharon Jackson have introduced a bill on the last day of the regular legislative session, May 15th, 2019 named HB 178 that would criminalize abortion in Alaska and create a new interpretation of the ‘right to privacy’ under state law.

The bill, otherwise known as the ‘Life at Conception Act’ or the ‘Abolition of Abortion Act of 2019’, was referred to the House Health and Social Services Committee but according to the Associated Press, Co-chair of the committee Rep. Ivy Spohnholz said she will not hear this bill and has "no interest in making it illegal for women to get an important health care procedure." According to an Alaska State Legislature Clerk, if a committee does not hear the bill in the next legislative session, the bill would not move forward.

Fairbanks legislators commented on the bill:

"I have a hard time going to criminalization, the current law as I understand it on the books of Alaska, is a reasonable compromise between the extreme position of no rights at all but that's obviously a topic that gets a lot of emotion going and to criminalize the mother over an abortion would be an extreme position that I would not take," said Representative Bart LeBon of Fairbanks.

"I am in agreement with the co-chair of the House Health and Social Services committee that we should not be and cannot be criminalizing access to women to get access to important health care procedures that they need," said Representative Grier Hopkins of Fairbanks.

According to the Alaska State Constitution, only topics written in a proclamation may be discussed or approved during a special session. Governor Mike Dunleavy specified topics that the legislature is to work on during this special session, such as the operating budget and crime bill, so it isn’t likely that this bill will be discussed until the start of the next legislative session.

Hopkins doesn't think a bill like this would be taken on by the current makeup of the house. "There have always been several bills criminalizing access to important healthcare procedures like this, almost every legislature has at least two or three of them that come forward, with a bipartisan coalition like we have with democrats, republicans, and independents working together, we move forward more moderate approaches to policy. We put aside the controversial social issues and work on issues that are more important to Alaskans, economic issues, education issues, budgetary issues, things like that. So this legislature most likely will not be taking up any controversial social issues like this," said Hopkins.

Under the proposed HB178 the intentional taking of human life “before, during, or after birth” is not protected by a right to privacy under the Alaska State Constitution. Classifying abortion as murder.
The bill would repeal all state statutes regulating abortion and make it a felony crime—with no exceptions for the life of a pregnant person or for victims of rape or incest. Prohibiting health-care providers from prescribing, dispensing, or administering an abortion-inducing drug. The bill would also amend current law regarding information relating to pregnancy and pregnancy alternatives to eliminate any mention of abortion services, options, and counseling, as well as any reference to current informed consent requirements for abortion.

Per the bill it is the decision of legislators, not judges, that determines the implementation of state law and protecting a person’s ‘right to life’. As is the punishment for infringement upon those rights. Going on to state that the “Constitution of the State of Alaska, after recognizing the right of the people to privacy, expressly grants to the legislature the authority to "implement this section," authority it does not grant to the courts.”

The bill would also amend the criminal code to redefine “person” when referring to the victim of a crime. Under HB178, when referring to a victim of a crime, “person” would mean:

…a human being who was alive at the time of the criminal act. A person who is not a child is “alive” if there is spontaneous respiratory or cardiac function, or, when respiratory and cardiac functions are maintained by artificial means, there is spontaneous brain function.

A person who is a child is “alive” if (1) the child meets the criteria under this section to be alive; or (2) the child is in the process of developing the ability to meet the criteria under this section to be alive.

Effectively classifying any embryo or fetus as a “person” when referring to the victim of a crime.

This means any person who obtains an abortion (or performs one) would be subject to felony assault/homicide charges. In Alaska, murder in the first degree is punishable by 30 to 99 years in prison. A person convicted of murder in the second degree would face 20 to 99 years in prison if they are convicted of the murder of a child under 16 years of age and the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was a natural parent or legal guardian of the victim.

It would also give a parent or legal guardian purported to be the ‘father’ of a ‘preborn child’ the right to bring charges against the mother for the death of said child by the ‘wrongful act’ of abortion.

This bill gives no special considerations or exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

Rep. LeBon said he believes there should be exceptions for victims of rape or incest, "my general philosophy would be in case of rape, incest, to protect the health of the mother, or early in the pregnancy, abortion is probably an appropriate law to have on the books."

In addition to criminal punishments the bill would also negate any and all federal laws protecting a woman’s right to a medical abortion. Any federal law concerning the facilitation of abortion would be unenforceable in the state of Alaska.

The state would be prohibited from passing any federal regulation that infringes on a “person’s right to life under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.”

Under HB178 the attorney general of Alaska would be required to file any legal action necessary to prevent the implementation of a federal regulation that violates the rights of a resident of Alaska.