JUNEAU — An Alaska state lawmaker is making her way back to the state capital after refusing what she called an invasive pat-down search at a Seattle airport.
Rep. Sharon Cissna, D-Anchorage, underwent a body scan as she was preparing to leave Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday. In a statement released late Monday, she said scan results displayed — as they had during a prior episode three months earlier — the scars from her breast cancer.
This caught the attention of the Transportation Safety Administration, Cissna said, but she refused to submit to the “invasive, probing hands of a stranger” this time.
“Facing the agent I began to remember what my husband and I’d decided after the previous intensive physical search. That I never had to submit to that horror again!” she said. “It would be difficult, we agreed, but I had the choice to say no, this twisted policy did not have to be the price of flying to Juneau.”
Cissna’s chief of staff, Michelle Scannell, said Cissna had had a mastectomy. The TSA, on its website, says security officers “will need to see and touch your prosthetic device, cast or support brace as part of the screening process.”
Cissna had been in Seattle for unspecified medical treatment and was attempting to return to Juneau, where the Legislature is in the midst of a 90-day session. The city is only accessible by air or water.
Scannell said Cissna was scheduled to return to Alaska via ferry but did not immediately say how soon. Cissna did not address that in her statement.
TSA spokesman Kawika Riley, after being asked to respond to Cissna’s comments, issued a general statement that did not mention Cissna or the Anchorage Democrat’s claims. He said TSA is “sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screening experience and we invite those individuals to provide feedback to TSA.”
Riley did not immediately return a phone message Monday.
Both full body scanners and pat-down searches have come under increasing criticism as the TSA has stepped up its airport security measures.
Cissna, an outspoken advocate on health care issues, said she also has fought for the rights of assault victims for nearly 50 years.
“The very last thing an assault victim or molested person can deal with is yet more trauma and the groping of strangers, the hands of government ‘safety’ policy,” she said.
“The freedom of travel should never come at the price of basic human dignity and pride,” she said.
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