State rejects anti-abortion ballot measure

Activist mulls going to court to fight decision

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Alaska Attorney General John Burns, and his predecessor, Attorney General Dan Sullivan, have each rejected anti-abortion ballot measures submitted by Anchorage's Clinton Desjarlais. Now, the anti-abortion activist says he intends to go to court to get a measure on the ballot to ban abortion and stop the government-sanctioned taking of human life.

“I’m a Christian, I know that life begins at conception, its readily apparent,” Desjarlais said.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell Tuesday rejected the Natural Right to Life initiative submitted by Desjarlais and two other petitioners, saying a legal review determined that it was unconstitutional and thus one of the few measures that could be rejected before signature gathering began.

“I was convinced the controlling case law made this clearly unconstitutional,” Treadwell said Tuesday.

Treadwell said that while he would prefer to let voters decide most issues and state law says to lean towards placing doubtful measures on the ballot, in this case the attorneys he relied upon said there was no question that it would be declared unconstitutional.

Desjarlais said Treadwell should have ignored the legal advice and allowed signature gathering to begin anyway.

“If he claims to be a pro-life person, why doesn't he certify it anyway,” Desjarlais asked.

Both state Constitutional protections for a woman’s right to privacy and the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade are clear, Treadwell said.

The Natural Right to Life initiative rejection follows last fall's rejection of a similar measure, the Sanctity of Life measure, which was rejected by then-Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell upon the advice of former Attorney General Dan Sullivan.

Burns is an appointee of Gov. Sean Parnell; Campbell and Sullivan were appointed by former Gov. Sarah Palin.

Treadwell said he's personally opposed to abortion but that an exhaustive review of the law convinced him he had little choice.

“I spent more time on this issue than any other single issue since wrapping up the senate election, and I did not see very much of a choice,” he said.

Desjarlais said he'd like to see the Alaska Constitution changed to end abortion, but Alaska law does not allow constitutional amendments to be made by initiative petition. He said he now plans to go to court to seek a place on the ballot for his measure.

“My tentative intent is to litigate this, and to challenge in court the denial of the right to the initiative process,” Desjarlais said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or

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