Outside editorial: An attack on women

The following editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act” introduced Jan. 20 in the U.S. House of Representatives is a broad attack on women’s reproductive health care. The talk for the last couple of days has been the bill’s supposed attempt to redefine rape — limiting a “rape” exemption to “forcible rape” — but the potential harm to women is larger.

The bill would prevent the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest involving a minor or the risk of death for the mother. The 35-year-old Hyde Amendment already prevents the use of taxpayer funding for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or risk of death to the mother, but it must be renewed every year. The new bill would make such exclusions permanent. Polls indicate that a majority of Americans support restrictions on federal funding of abortions.

On Thursday, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., dropped the “forcible rape” language, agreeing to substitute the Hyde Amendment language. That’s a positive development, especially because there is no statutory definition of “forcible rape” in federal criminal code. Rape is rape.

But the bill’s other problems haven’t been addressed.

The bill would prohibit the use of tax-exempt money, including health savings accounts, from paying for abortions or insurance plans that include abortion coverage. The bill is written so broadly that some abortion-rights advocates claim it would end insurance coverage for abortions altogether.

The burden would fall most heavily on low-income women. Forty-two percent of women who have an abortion have incomes below the federal poverty level — less than $11,000 for a single woman with no children. They are less likely to have private health insurance or the available cash to pay for an abortion.

Worse, the bill reintroduces the so-called Hyde-Weldon “conscience clause,” which prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating against medical providers for refusing to perform abortions or refusing to refer patients to other abortion providers, or even to provide abortion medication.

Under some interpretations, the conscience clause might even protect medical personnel who refuse to provide the morning-after pill, a high-dose hormonal contraceptive that can prevent pregnancy if taken within a couple of days of unprotected sex.

Research from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes sexual and reproductive health causes, and the World Health Organization has shown that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is illegal as where it is legal.

Abortion opponents can’t have it both ways. They can’t restrict access to contraceptives, sex education and family planning and also claim to be against abortion.

We have long supported a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices. When to become a parent is a personal and private decision between a woman and her partner. We agree that abortion should be legal, safe and rare.

Birth control and family planning are the keys to making abortion rare, and they should be covered under the health care reform bill passed last year. The Obama administration has asked the Institute of Medicine to identify preventive services for women that must be covered at no cost under the reform bill.

Those services must include contraceptives and family planning services.

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Wed, 02/22/2017 - 11:53

Stand with Alaskans and stand with Planned Parenthood

I appreciate Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s recent decision to support repealing the Trump administration’s global gag rule. The global gag rule bans federal money for overseas family planning programs if the programs also provide abortion, or provide information about abortion. The global gag rule puts thousands of lives at risk, and Murkowski has rightly recognized that. I praise Murkowski, and want her to know that Alaskans stand with her in supporting access to family planning services. This means that we support Planned Parenthood, and we hope she will stand with us in the coming weeks by refusing to vote for any changes to the Affordable Care Act that include defunding Planned Parenthood. Read more

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:42

Alaska editorial: The opioid issue

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:41

Expanding apprenticeship in rural Alaska

We are proud to announce a new statewide training initiative: the Alaska Maritime Apprenticeship Program. Over the past year, the Calista Corporation, in partnership with the state and federal government, has built a Registered Apprenticeship program to train Alaskans for careers on deck, in the engine room, and in the galley, earning both a salary and an industry-recognized credential. Working with a group of companies including Brice Marine and Yukon River Towing, we are expanding career and training opportunities for Alaskans in the maritime industry.

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Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:40

Transboundary mining: Defending Alaska’s interests

It is a big week for Alaska’s capital city. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan are in town to address the Alaska State Legislature, the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) Board of Directors, and all Alaskans. There are a number of issues on which the state of Alaska, including our elected decision makers at both the state and federal levels, can show unity. One of those critical issues is asking the U.S. federal government to defend Alaskan interests in the Alaska-British Columbia (B.C.) transboundary mining issue.

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