Separate bills filed in the Alaska Legislature aim to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide, redefine marriage and force health care insurers in the state to cover contraceptives, sterilizations and procedures — including those that cause abortion.
BILL AIMS TO LEGALIZE DOCTOR-PRESCRIBED SUICIDE
A bill to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in Alaska has been reintroduced in the State Legislature. House Bill 54, sponsored by Anchorage Democrats Rep. Harriet Drummond would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients for the purpose of suicide. Drummond proposed a similar bill in 2015.
Opponents of the practice believe that patients – including those with terminal illness – need proper care, not destruction. In 2015 Access Alaska, a disability advocacy group in Anchorage, posted a strongly worded rebuttal to doctor-prescribed suicide shortly after Drummond introduced her bill.
“What looks to some like a choice to die begins to look more like a duty to die to many disability activists,” Access Alaska posted to its Facebook page. “If the values of liberty dictate that society legalizes assisted suicide, then legalize it for everyone who asks for it, not just the devalued old, ill and disabled. Otherwise, what looks like freedom is really only discrimination.”
The post was a quotation from Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet¸ a national disability rights group that opposes doctor-prescribed suicide.
The Catholic Church also opposes suicide – doctor-prescribed or otherwise.
“We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of,” explains the Catholic Catechism.
The proposed Alaska bill is part of a national drive by an outside group called Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society. To date, doctor-prescribed suicide is legal in six states, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Montana and Colorado.
Legislation approving doctor-proscribed suicide was also signed into law, late last year, just before Christmas.
In 2001, the Alaska Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there is no state constitutional right to doctor-prescribed suicide. One of the primary reasons noted by Justice Alex Bryner who wrote the opinion, was that the “terminally ill are a class of persons who need protection from family, social, and economic pressures, and who are often particularly vulnerable to such pressures because of chronic pain, depression, and the effects of medication.”
Opponents of doctor-prescribed suicide have expressed concerned that the vulnerable will face pressure to be killed because it will be cheaper for insurance companies to pay for lethal drugs than expensive, lengthy treatments.
Anchorage Democrat Rep. Andy Josephson has introduced two measures that deal with the definition of marriage.
In 1998, voters made Alaska the first U.S. state to define marriage as between “one man and one woman.” Josephson’s House Joint Resolution 1 aims to amend the Alaska Constitution. The move comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in favor of same-sex “marriage” nationwide. Since that time, Alaska has not changed its now unenforceable definition of marriage. In order to change the Alaska Constitution the proposed amendment would need to be approved by voters in a general election.
Josephson’s second measure, House Bill 15, aims to eliminate references to “husband and wife” with regards to marriage law, adoption and birth certificates. The bill aims to replace nearly all references to “husband and wife” with “two spouses.” It also replaces “father” and “mother” with the sex-neutral term “parent.” The same bill refers to marriage as a “civil contract entered into by two natural persons,” rather than “one man and one woman.”
FORCING INSURERS TO COVER ABORTIFACIENT CONTRACEPTIVES
Anchorage Democrat Rep. Matt Claman introduced House Bill 25, which would force health care insurers operating in the state to provide coverage for the “full range” of prescription and over-the-counter contraceptives, sterilizations, contraceptive-focused exams and procedures and medical services. Health care insurers would be forced to cover the contraceptive pill, so-called “emergency contraception” and IUDs (inserted in outpatient procedures) — all of which can cause early abortions of living human embryos.
The bill has a narrow exemption for some health care insurers that provide insurance plans to a “religious” employer that objects to the mandate and has “self-certified” as such with the federal Department of Labor or has given notice to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This could leave out various organizations, including religious orders or religiously-affiliated organizations with a focus on social services that aren’t officially “religious” activities. Moreover, the bill would force health care insurers to cover contraceptives when they provide insurance plans to non-religious, for-profit businesses or non-profit organizations that aren’t officially “religious” but oppose covering contraceptives and abortifacients for religious or ethical reasons.
In addition, HB 25 prohibits health care insurers from requiring copayments, deductibles or other forms of cost sharing to offset the costs of covering contraceptives. But the bill does not prohibit insurers from raising the prices of insurance plan premiums – including of objecting and exempt organizations – to pay for the abortifacient contraceptives provided to others.