July 7, 2022

Press Release: Gara Wants Executive Order To Protect Women’s Right to Choose

Would Join States Protecting Patients and Providers In Alaska For Legal Conduct That Is Illegal In Other States

(Anchorage) – Today, gubernatorial candidate and former Alaska State House Representative Les Gara called for an Executive Order to protect health care providers and others, who help a woman with reproductive health decisions, from criminal and civil prosecution by other states. This is a step many pro-choice states have taken in response to a growing threat that states will pass extremist anti-choice legislation punishing people with criminal or civil liability if their residents seek help from medical professionals in Alaska. The right to choose remains legal in Alaska. Gara would implement the Order upon being elected. A number of anti-choice states now classify abortion as a crime, and those laws are expected to expand to more states.

“Alaska’s health care professionals and the families seeking their help must know they are protected when they do what the Alaska Constitution says is legal. I won’t let people be threatened by criminal prosecution and civil liability from laws created by politicians in other states,” said Gara. “Alaska has a long tradition of standing up against government overreach and this is one of the most important times in our history to take that stand. If Governor Dunleavy opposes government overreach he should issue an order like this now.” 

In just the few weeks since Roe was overturned, state legislators are already working on laws to impose criminal or civil liability if their residents seek help from medical professionals and others in states like Alaska, where the right to choose remains legal. The proposed Executive order says prosecutors and attorneys from the Lower 48 cannot threaten Alaskans with criminal or civil liability for helping a resident from an anti-choice state obtain an abortion while in Alaska. It protects providers, others who help, and the out-of-state patient for conduct that occurs in Alaska and that is legal here. 

Alaska physician and retired Ob-Gyn Tina Tomsen states: “It would be an additional harm to patients already dealing with stressful situations and decisions to have to worry about meddling outside prosecutors. I absolutely agree with states protecting patients from these additional threats.”  

Medical providers and legal scholars have been tracking threats that anti-choice states will take criminal or civil action against people in states where the right to choose is legal. Criminal or civil penalties would threaten providers who offer advice and assistance on reproductive health that is legal in states like Alaska. Legal scholars expect anti-choice states will soon use the recent Supreme Court ruling overtuning Roe. V. Wade to intimidate people from other states where abortion is legal. Or that they may take action against patients from an anti-choice state who seek advice or treatment from a provider in states like Alaska where a woman’s right to choose is legal. So far at least five states, including western states Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, have taken similar action. 

Gara explained: “The Order prohibits Alaska State officials from helping anti-choice states prosecute or extradite Alaska providers by keeping medical information private. That privacy would also extend to the out-of-state patient who seeks help. I don’t want to other states to intimidate Alaskans for doing what is legal in Alaska.”
 
As the only pro-choice candidate running for Alaska Governor, Gara also called on the incumbent, Dunleavy, to also take action. “A Governor should uphold the constitutional rights of Alaskans, and not allow them to be undermined by politicians in other states.”
  
Gara and his running mate, Jessica Cook were recently endorsed by Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates for their long record of continued commitment to standing up for a woman’s right to choose. In their endorsement statement, Rose O’Hara-Jolley, Alaska State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates states: “Anti-abortion extremists like Governor Dunleavy are advocating for a constitutional amendment to eliminate protections for abortion rights. Former Governor Walker also showed he cannot be trusted to protect our rights. While in office, Walker had a proven record of supporting anti-abortion policies and politicians including then-Senator Dunleavy. The threat to abortion access in Alaska is imminent. It is critical to elect strong reproductive rights leaders in Alaska. Les Gara and Jessica Cook are those leaders.”

Jessica Cook, a fifth-generation Alaskan and long-time teacher states: “I’m proud to take on this fight for Alaskans. We’re running against men who have shown they’re willing to take away a woman’s right to control her own body and her basic right to privacy. Les and I are working hard to talk to every Alaskan so we can win this election and protect the basic rights of Alaskans.”

Both of Gara’s opponents, Dunleavy and Walker, have publicly stated they oppose a woman’s right to choose and their actions back up these statements:

 In 2020 Governor Dunleavy joined the radical Texas lawsuit to ban a woman’s right to choose.

 In 2014, Walker ran with a pro-choice Lt. Governor and promised to veto anti-choice legislation. He then retracted that promise based on his personal “pro-life” beliefs

In 2015 Governor Walker sued to restrict Medicaid coverage of abortion, seeking to roll back Alaska Supreme Court precedent.

 In 2019 the Alaska Supreme Court ruled against Walker’s challenge, noting it had already ruled in favor of Medicaid coverage in prior court precedent

Gara and Cook have promised to take action to keep the right to choose legal and to keep the right to safe contraception legal if that becomes the next battleground at the Supreme Court.  

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Draft Executive Order

Protecting patients, medical providers, and those who assist patients and medical providers with legal reproductive health decisions and actions, that another state has made illegal in violation of Alaska law.

As Governor I will protect women, patients, health care providers, and all others who lawfully help a person to exercise their Alaska right to make and advise on and assist in reproductive health decisions that are legal in the State of Alaska.

WHEREAS other States have adopted and may continue to expand laws that may purport to impose civil or criminal liability or professional sanctions on health care professionals who provide and persons who seek and obtain reproductive health care services in the State of Alaska as permitted by the laws of this State;

WHEREAS those actions, to the extent legal in the State of Alaska, may include assistance by telehealth to the extent permitted, and to advise on or prescribe medications to those who prefer a safe prescription pill “medication abortion” instead of a surgical abortion;

WHEREAS health care professionals lawfully providing and persons lawfully seeking and obtaining reproductive health services in the State of Alaska should be protected from legal liability premised on and professional sanctions issued under the laws of other States when those services are lawful in the Commonwealth and meet Commonwealth standards for good professional practice;

WHEREAS in the State of Alaska people have a right to choose safe, legal abortion, and people from other states where this choice has been banned may seek services in person or by telehealth in Alaska to the extent permitted by law;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Les Gara, as Governor of the State of Alaska, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Alaska Constitution and Alaska Supreme Court Precedent interpreting the Alaska Constitution to protect a woman’s right to choose, do hereby order as follows:

1. No Assistance from Executive Department Agencies or personnel. Except as required by the order of a court of competent jurisdiction, that has not been stayed by appeal, no executive  department agency and no employee, appointee, officer, or other person acting on behalf of any executive department agency may provide any information or expend or use time, money, facilities, property, equipment, personnel or other resources in furtherance of any investigation or proceeding initiated in or by another state that seeks to impose civil or criminal liability or professional sanction upon a person or entity for

i. the provision, securing or receiving of, or any inquiry concerning reproductive health care services that are legal in the State of Alaska; or

ii. any assistance is given to any person or entity that relates to the provision, securing, receiving of, or any inquiry concerning reproductive health care services that are legal in the state of Alaska.
This restriction shall not apply to any investigation or proceeding where the conduct that is subject to potential liability under the investigation or proceeding initiated in or by the other State would be subject to civil or criminal liability or professional sanction under the laws of the State of Alaska if committed in this State. Notwithstanding the general prohibition of this section, agencies and individuals acting on their behalf may provide information or assistance in connection with such an investigation or proceeding in response to the written request of a person who is the subject of such an investigation or proceeding.

2. Protection of Health Care and Other Professionals Licensed in the State of Alaska. The Commissioner of the Department of Health and the Director of the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing are directed to work with the boards of professional licensure operating under their respective supervision to implement policies that will ensure that no person shall be disqualified from licensure or subject to discipline by a Commonwealth board of professional licensure for providing or assisting in the provision of reproductive health care services or as a consequence of any judgment, discipline, or other sanction threatened or imposed under the laws of another State so long as the services as provided would have been lawful and consistent with standards for good professional practice in the State of Alaska.  The Commissioner and Director shall report to me on measures implemented by the boards under their supervision within 45 days of this Order.

3. Unavailability of Interstate Extradition. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Office of the Governor and all executive law enforcement agencies shall decline any request received from any other State to issue a warrant for the arrest or surrender of any person charged with a criminal violation of a law of that other State where the violation alleged involves the provision or receipt of or assistance with reproductive health care services unless the acts forming the basis of the prosecution of the crime charged would also constitute a criminal offense under the laws of the State of Alaska.  Consistent with the requirements of the United States Constitution, this limitation shall not apply in the circumstance where the person who is the subject of the request for arrest or surrender was physically present in the requesting State at the time of the commission of the alleged offense and thereafter fled from that State. 

4. Definitions. For the purposes of this order, the terms listed below shall have the following meanings: “Reproductive health care services” includes all medical, surgical, prescription, counseling, or referral services relating to the human reproductive system, including, but not limited to, services relating to pregnancy, contraception, or the termination of a pregnancy;

This Executive Order shall continue in effect until amended, superseded, or revoked by subsequent Executive Order.

Given at the Executive Chamber in Juneau this ____ day of January 2023.

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