Where We Stand on Reproductive Rights

By Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas
Anchorage Press, September 14, 2021
The Midnight Sun, September 15, 2021

Like many Alaskans, we are pained by the divisive political rhetoric tearing our communities and families apart. We believe what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Most Alaskans share a common goal for ourselves and our loved ones — to pursue fulfilling and healthy lives in thriving communities.

We’re running to create opportunities for all Alaskans to pursue their hopes and dreams. This will require us to rebuild trust, invest in infrastructure, and work with the Legislature to secure Alaska’s economic future. The values we bring are equally critical to achieving this vision of a thriving Alaska. We pledge to work across party lines, and to address people as Alaskans, not as members of partisan factions. We believe that’s exactly the kind of leadership Alaskans expect and deserve.

Because of my conservative political background, and because the Walker-Drygas ticket is nonpartisan, we want to be clear about where we stand on reproductive rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community.

We begin by acknowledging the concerns of Alaskans who fear losing autonomy over their own healthcare decisions. While Bill is personally pro-life and Heidi is pro-choice, we will honor our oath of office and uphold and defend every constitutional right. That includes taking necessary executive action or vetoing unconstitutional legislation that infringes upon any of our fundamental rights. Alaska’s Constitution provides an express right to privacy, which Alaska’s Supreme Court has ruled includes a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. We hold our duty to the Constitution higher than our personal convictions, and we will always fight for the rights of Alaskans — whether defending the right to bear arms, protecting freedom of speech, or ensuring the right to privacy. All of these rights often must be protected precisely because others don’t agree with how they are exercised.

But above all, we are pro-family. That means we support access to healthcare, contraception, economic opportunities, and a livable wage. It means we will work tirelessly to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault. It means we will champion Alaska’s children and working parents by supporting greater access to high-quality, affordable childcare, early childhood education, and flexible work arrangements. It means we will support policies that help aging Alaskans live with dignity.

A pro-family agenda includes meaningful healthcare reform. In our first term we expanded Medicaid, extending healthcare and birth control access to more than 60,000 Alaskans, bringing a billion new dollars into Alaska’s economy each year while reducing the state’s cost of providing healthcare. We worked with Sen. Lisa Murkowski to protect federal healthcare funding for Alaskans. We will continue to promote practical policies that improve Alaskans’ quality of life. For example, we will introduce legislation to allow contraceptives to be dispensed 12 months at a time rather than the three months currently allowed.

Respect for Alaskans also means respecting all families. We believe the fabric of our communities is stronger when we support and uphold the rights of our LGBTQ neighbors, coworkers, and friends. By no means is my record perfect, but I have always been honest with Alaskans. I learned a great deal during my first term as governor from colleagues, friends, and LGBTQ advisors in our administration about their community. Under our administration, the state Human Rights Commission began, for the first time, documenting allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression. I also nominated a LGBTQ Alaskan to a seat on the Human Rights Commission because he was the most qualified for the position.

We promise to continue to engage and learn from our LGBTQ community members. Looking to the future, we will support legislation specifically empowering the Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints from the LGBTQ community, just as it does with complaints related to race, gender, religion, and national origin. Our administration will honor the rights of LGBTQ Alaskans, including the right to marry, which is the law of the land, and the right to live free from discrimination. We will work to promote a culture in Alaska of tolerance and healing.

We are running for governor and lieutenant governor because we believe Alaska’s best days are ahead. By bringing together Alaskans from diverse backgrounds — in an administration that reflects our many cultures, locations, political affiliations, and ways of life — we can tackle and solve our most pressing problems. The Walker-Drygas ticket will forge solutions that improve the lives of all Alaskans, and put differences aside for the sake of the greater good. That’s the Alaskan way.