Constitutional convention threatens Alaskans’ privacy, reproductive health care rights

We can preserve privacy rights in Alaska. We can protect our constitution. And we know we cannot do it alone; we are in this together.

This op-ed was originally published on May 9, 2022.

Our state is full of people who value independence as much as we value each other. We know we are different and unique, and we come together in ways that make us all proud to be Alaskans. Part of what makes us stand out are the principles we stand by, for ourselves, our families and our ways of life.

Many of those principles are inscribed in our state’s constitution. We made sure to memorialize a set of fundamental rights and responsibilities to protect our people. One of those rights, the right to privacy, is central to the decisions we make every day that affect our families, our healthcare, our education, and the freedoms we cherish.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled its willingness to intrude on these vital freedoms. As the nation faces the potential that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, and critical privacy rights will be lost, in Alaska these rights remain intact -- for now. But we can’t sit comfortably in this idea. As the leaked draft opinion reveals, constitutional rights are only promises unless we fight to defend them. These promises are not self-executing. It is our responsibility to honor those promises, and to care for each other.

The day this draft decision was leaked coincided with the day I joined the ACLU of Alaska. I joined this organization because it shares my belief that as Alaskans, we come together when our families and friends and neighbors need us. The responsibility to protect our privacy and choice just became more urgent. The ACLU of Alaska will fight arm-in-arm with advocates across the nation to ensure that these critical rights are not lost.

We also have another opportunity to protect our constitution. In the November general election, voters in Alaska will be asked, as they are every 10 years, to decide if the state should hold a Constitutional Convention. The first time the question appeared on the ballot was 1972. Then, and every time since, Alaskans have voted it down by a significant majority. We do so because we know that our constitution upholds numerous, important protections of individual rights and liberties -- values Alaskans hold dear to our hearts.

We can preserve privacy rights in Alaska. We can protect our constitution. And we know we cannot do it alone; we are in this together.

Mara Kimmel is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska, which has been protecting the constitutional rights of Alaskans for 51 years.