Anchorage Daily News: “Walker has failed on health, privacy issues”

 In News

I was born and raised in Alaska, and though I’ve lived out of state for college and volunteering, Alaska is and always has been my home. Once I complete my training as a family medicine doctor I plan to live, raise a family, and build my career as a physician here.

I am proud of the Alaska spirit and the people who embody it; a spirit of independence, resourcefulness, and courage. It is my personal and professional goal to work with Alaskans to be the healthiest people possible.

However, over the past couple of years and especially after the announcement of Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court, I have become increasingly concerned for the future of women in Alaska and their access to health care. Alaskans already face myriad barriers when it comes to accessing local, affordable health care across the state, and recent news out of Washington threatens to exacerbate those challenges and undermines a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.

There is no question that the pending change on the Supreme Court puts the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade on the line. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump unequivocally declared “I am putting pro-life justices on the court.” He went on to say that states will ultimately have the final say: “I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.”

Here in Alaska, protecting a woman’s right to choose has traditionally been a cornerstone of our state’s deep respect for personal privacy. However, the political climate has changed significantly since 1970, when abortion was legalized in Alaska — three years before Roe v. Wade made it the law of the land. Our current Legislature includes a number of lawmakers who either opt not to take a strong stand on women’s health issues or are actively working to limit a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. History has already proven that when abortion is illegal, it doesn’t cease to exist. Instead, it becomes unsafe and potentially lethal.

This is why it has never been more important that we elect leaders at the state level who have a proven record of both protecting a woman’s safety and dignity through her right to choose and fighting for equal access to health care in every corner of our state.

In 2014, I supported Gov. Bill Walker because former Gov. Sean Parnell had proven he was a threat to women’s rights and equal access to health care. Further, Gov. Walker indicated that while he personally was not pro-choice, he would not do anything to undermine Alaskans’ access to reproductive education and health care. However, he was not true to his word, and that is why he has lost my vote.

In 2015, under Gov. Walker’s leadership, the state of Alaska chose to appeal a court ruling that found the state’s definition of “medically necessary” abortion to be unduly restrictive by limiting Medicaid funding and, by extension, access to abortions to low-income women. The issue was a remnant of the Parnell administration which Gov. Walker could have chosen to let go after the Superior Court ruled in favor of Alaska’s women. Instead, Gov. Walker’s administration chose to appeal the ruling, potentially jeopardizing abortion coverage for hundreds of Alaska women each year. The issue is still sitting with the Alaska Supreme Court.

In 2016, Gov. Walker refused to veto the reckless bill that tightened restrictions on sex education. The bill was opposed by Planned Parenthood because it blocked our young people from the information they need on safe sex and healthy relationships. Public pressure was intense, but Gov. Walker defaulted to his personal beliefs and pressure from extreme conservatives and allowed the bill to become law.

The governor has also demonstrated a lack of leadership on non-controversial issues, like failing to take an active role in supporting the bill currently stalled in the Legislature that would require public and private insurers to cover 12-month prescriptions of birth control. While local legislators have taken the lead on promoting this issue, we need an ally in the governor’s office who will help make these commonsense ideas a reality for Alaska women.

As a result, Gov. Walker has lost my trust and my vote in this election. His actions — or lack thereof — have real consequences for Alaskans. As someone who has chosen to pursue a career as a physician, I have seen what a critical role our state government plays in ensuring fair, equal and accessible health care for all Alaskans.

These are among the many reasons that the choice for Alaska’s next governor is clear. I will be supporting Mark Begich for governor. Mike Dunleavy is an established opponent of women’s rights and Gov. Walker has made it all too clear that when push comes to shove, he is not willing to demonstrate the leadership we need.

Mark Begich has a proven record that spans decades and demonstrates the commitment and consistency that we need on these issues. Mark Begich is a true leader and I trust him to protect Alaska values and fight for equal rights for myself, my family, my neighbors, and especially for my future patients.

Read the original article here.