Abortion draws clear divide in state races

Palin, Knowles stand on opposite sides of debate

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2006

In a race derided by some for having few stark differences, the abortion question is providing a clear way to differentiate between candidates in a few cases.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Knowles has a solid pro-choice history stemming from his two terms in the Governor's Mansion, while his opponent Republican Sarah Palin holds firm pro-life views.

Independent Andrew Halcro, also running for governor, is pro-choice as well.

Palin, however, isn't interested in talking about her views.

"She would not seek out this issue. She feels like there are several other issues that are paramount to the future of the state," said Curtis Smith, spokesman for the Palin campaign.

Smith said Palin is opposed to abortion, but believes an exception should be made if the health of the mother is in danger.

That's the only exception Palin would make, though, Smith said.

"She doesn't make exception for rape and incest, only for health of the mother," he said.

Knowles spokesperson Patty Ginsburg said Knowles is "absolutely" pro-choice.

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"His fundamental position is that reproductive decisions are to be decided between a woman and her doctor, no ifs, ands or buts," she said.

Knowles has a long history in defending a woman's right to chose, she said, including vetoing measures he considered to be unconstitutional restrictions on women's privacy rights.

Smith said the important thing about Palin's abortion views is that she wouldn't be proposing new anti-abortion legislation, and that while her views on the subject are firm, she's not running for office to advocate for them.

He accused the Knowles campaign of trying to politicize the issue.

"Tony Knowles is working to divide Alaskans by making abortion an issue," Smith said.

Knowles spokesperson Patty Ginsburg said Palin was hiding an extreme anti-abortion position.

Palin would even bar abortions in the case of rape or incest, Ginsburg said.

"That's farther than a lot of pro-life people go," she said. "It's pretty extreme."

As governor, Knowles vetoed a measure to ban late-term "partial birth" abortions that he said had no medical definition and interfered with constitutionally protected rights. The bill he vetoed would have made "felons out of physicians who perform these abortions" in defiance of the state and federal constitutions, according to his veto statement. That veto was overridden by the state House on a 40-19 vote, Ginsburg said.

Locally, abortion views also divide Republican Randy Wanamaker and Democrat Andrea Doll in their quest for the House District 4 seat centered in the Mendenhall Valley.

Wanamaker is pro-life, though he supports an exception for rape, incest or cases in which the mother's life is in danger.

Despite his pro-life views, Wanamaker said he would "probably not" take the initiative to push for anti-abortion laws himself and considered the issue not a significant part of his campaign.

"You are the first person who has ever asked about it," he said.

The Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition said it also asked about it, according to LaRae Jones, the group's treasurer. Wanamaker didn't respond to its questionnaire, and the group endorsed Doll.

In the race for Juneau-based Senate District B, both Democrat Kim Elton and Republican Mac Meiners said they are pro-choice.

"I'm not a woman and I'm not going to tell a woman what to do," Meiners said. "I guess that makes me pro-choice."

Elton said he was pro-choice as well. "I'm pretty conservative," he said. "I don't think the government has any right to tell a woman what her decision should be.

Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula, running unopposed for re-election to House District 3, has not only been endorsed by the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, she's also contributed money to the group as well, according to Alaska Public Offices Commission filings.



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