By Grey Areas by C. Grey LaClair
Governor Mike Dunleavy recently took another swing at Alaskan’s abortion rights by line-item vetoing $334,700 from the judiciary in stated retaliation for being “the only branch” that still supports abortion. This is the amount that the state paid for abortions in 2018.
Yet, according to a 2014 Pew survey, 63% of Alaskans answered that abortions should be legal in all or most cases. Alaska was the one of the first states to legalize abortion in 1967. Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has won three elections so far, is one of the most pro-choice Republicans in Congress.
Dunleavy’s veto ignores the will of people in order to serve the interests of a loud few at the expense of a stifled minority: women, mostly poor, disproportionately of color, who cannot afford abortions with a private doctor. His veto ignores the role of the judiciary for over a century — to stand up for the minority. If constitutional interpretation were up to the democratic will (i.e. the privileged who can afford time off to vote and the loud few who influence them) as Dunleavy seems to believe, it’s imaginable Alabama would still have segregated water fountains, or Idaho might start to.
Notwithstanding the will of the people, Dunleavy seems intent on cutting the resources for those facing the unimaginable hardship of an unwanted pregnancy. Irrespective of federal law, Dunleavy has tried to refuse federal Medicaid funding. This is in addition to Alaska’s existing barriers to women seeking abortions: a doctor must treat the patient (even with a medication abortion) versus a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner; and large numbers of rural women have limited physical access abortion providers. Notably, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners have sweeping scopes of practices in Alaska, except for when it comes to abortion and can prescribe nearly all other medications including opiates.
Luckily, Planned Parenthood is beginning to provide access to medication abortion via telemedicine in other states and hopefully will soon in Alaska. Currently, the in-office various procedures in Alaska include ultrasounds, counseling before and after, antibiotics, narcotic painkillers, and an emergency hotline. However, in the wake of abortion restrictions across the U.S., safe alternatives are emerging.
One international organization, AidAccess, started in 2018 and provided 21,000 American women abortion pills via mail along with medical consultations. The non-profit PlanCPills.org lists a number of other reputable sources to buy abortion pills without waiting for a consultation. Some of these sources require purchases to be made with BitCoin, adding an extra layer of dissent into the process. PlanCPills.org offers guidance on how to self-manage a medication abortion.
The non-profit IfWhenHow.org provides legal defense to those targeted by the government, although only a handful of women in the U.S. have been criminally charged in recent years. American consumers import millions of prescriptions from online sources (think: generic Viagra from India, heart medications from Canada), and while it is on-the-books illegal yet unenforced, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress are trying to deregulate the process of buying cheap non-narcotic drugs from overseas. It was at some point part of the Republican’s overhaul of the ACA. For the government to target women for importing abortion pills while advocating for those importing far more dangerous drugs violates Equal Protection.
While self-manage abortions generally only involve the pills and not the extras provided at Planned Parenthood, modern medicated abortions are exceptionally safe and effective. Studies have repeatedly shown the modern medication abortion (using misoprostol plus mifepristone) produces complications in a mere 0.05% of patients. The combination is 95% effective in terminating pregnancies in women who are up to 10 weeks pregnant. The use of medication versus surgery to induce an abortion is consistently rising in Alaska (28% in 2018) and the U.S. (around half).
In essence, abortion medications induce the natural functions of our own bodies. Before six weeks, the risk of miscarriage is up to 75%. Between six to twelve weeks – the time when most abortions are performed – the risk is up to 20%. Women have been encouraging their bodies to perform this normal process for thousands of years by means of intense exercise, herbs, massage, surgery, yoga twists, and tight girdles. Similarly, prior to modern birth control, women found their own means of contraception, not only herbs and abstinence but also practices like syncing their cycles and then leaving the village together while ovulating, presumably for great adventures.
Elective abortion in humans has happened throughout history, as a natural course of events and the lack of abortions a and general exploitation of our bodies, akin to the earth, is cumulatively the root of the unusual event of population explosion in the 20th century. This, of course, has been a mixed blessing. Indeed, female animals including mice, monkeys, and horses, have also been found to intentionally abort their fetuses at times. Even the authors of the Bible did not feel that abortion was important enough to explicitly mention, nevertheless prohibit, despite it regulating menstruation, childbirth, libido, and rape. This lack of theological foundation evidences the self-serving, malicious, and discriminatory nature of the religious right’s attack on women that should outrage us all.
At some point, if enough women self-manage their abortions and enough people support those who do, the government will not be able to go after us all. We need to stand tall against Dunleavy and his blows at our physical autonomy by letting other women know they have options. As a final note, please do not take this article as a substitute for advice from your medical or legal professional. Be safe and think for yourself!