In a survey distributed by the ultra-conservative Alaska Family Council (which seems to do little for the good of Alaska or families), 61 candidates for contested state house & senate primaries were questioned about their stances on a dozen specific “values” issues. Of the 27 responding candidates, all Republican, all affirmed for the voting public which of those “values” ranked highest on their priority lists. Assuming this batch of contenders and incumbents are representative of their electorate, it seems we have a serious problem with unwanted pregnancy and a firm conviction on how we should, as a state, define “family.” In results that probably play out very similarly among other red states, these candidates are echoing the call to arms against abortion and doubling down on their quasi-Biblical view of family values.
It’s disappointing that none of the 14 Democrats petitioned answered the survey. In this climate of anti-progressivism, even moderate liberals are hesitant to take a public stance that might offend their right-leaning constituency or offend the sensibilities of socially conservative independents. But if this is a fight about “values,” shouldn’t it be something worth fighting for?
Let’s start with presumptive “family values”. In question six of this survey, candidates are asked if they would “…vote to oppose any attempt to repeal or weaken Article 1, Section 25 of the Alaska Constitution, which states: ‘To be valid or recognized in this State, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman.'”
To give the candidates context, the survey boasts how, in 1998, Alaska became the first state to codify, by means of popular vote, this definition into our state Constitution. Since then, 30 states have parroted this amendment.
As illustrated by the voracious support of a chicken sandwich and the devastating failure of equality legislation over the last few years, it would seem there is a significant portion of the American public who retain a false nostalgia over what it means to be a family. That classic conservative narrative of a Cleaver-style nuclear family is juxtaposed with a President who speaks out in favor of same-sex marriage; a military that has repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; increasing pressure by the people to overturn Defense of Marriage Act legislation and the realities and science of the 21st century.
Still, candidates partial to their Christian Right constituents, trying to distance themselves from being perceived as dirty-word-moderates, are coming out in force to assert prejudice over progress.
In this survey, respondents made clear their unanimous opposition to equal protection from discrimination for their LGBTQ neighbors. Lora Reinbold, Republican running for state house in Eagle River’s District 16, emphasized in her closing comments that she is very proud of her vociferous opposition to Anchorage’s Proposition 5. The failed measure, voted down in last April’s municipal election, sought to add gender identity and sexual orientation to Anchorage’s nondiscrimination statutes. Reinbold went so far as to boast about recruiting picketers against the measure.
The majority of respondents not only oppose same sex marriage, but oppose even offering benefits to the same sex partners of federal and state employees. This does not sound like family values to me. But then, my definition of Family doesn’t quasi-come from the Bible.
Even as a woman of fluid sexuality, I am content and very happy in my monogamous heterosexual marriage. I am open with my family cell, and I am raising tolerant, loving children despite a polarized world. I believe that I serve as proof that a family should only be defined by the family itself. Why do those opposed to same sex marriage worry about how they explain homosexuality to their children? It is much more difficult for LGBTQ parents to explain to their children why their families are perceived as different, unequal, even despised.
I am strong and vocal supporter of same sex marriage, and believe the archaic views of its opposition will fall to the pressure of progress. In the same manner as other civil rights movements, the view of the general public will absorb and eventually accept that gay, straight and anywhere in between is just another facet of our humanity. As more of us are able to be vocal about our orientation, all people will be able to see the normalcy and commonality of same sex or mixed orientation families.
I believe it is folly for candidates to be so steadfast in their opinions and opposition to same sex marriage. History will bear them out and the tolerance of tomorrow will come regardless their opinion.
This survey, intending to offer voters a values-based voting guide also includes several questions about abortion. Despite the battles of the latter century, the issue of abortion has once again been thrust into the spotlight of national debate. We are again in the midst of pairing women’s rights against a theological discussion of what constitutes life.
In this, it is harder for me, a parent, to clearly define my position as easily as I can define family.
I maintain that I am pro-choice. I also maintain that there should be plenty of educated and informed choices. The news-bites of legitimate rape and resultant pregnancy have been ringing in my head the last few days. It strikes a deep, personal chord.
Once, I was legitimately raped, became actually pregnant and had to make real life choices. Serendipity took up cause with my conscience, and I bore that child and gave her up for adoption. That choice was difficult. I could have had an abortion. It was my first instinct and my first intent, and did not go completely against my morality to do so. I had had an abortion before. Had I not, my life would have been very different. Who knows what path I would have taken? This time, I chose life. Not because I was pressured by protesters, not because of any ad I’d seen, not because I talked to a counselor, and certainly not out of religious conviction. I made the choice I did because I was able to choose. I sacrificed of several months of my life; awkward exchanges with casual acquaintances and an unanswered question of “what if” that i get to carry around for life. But I was in a place to make that difficult choice, in a society that summarily granted me the power to make it.
These simplified questions on the Alaska Family Council’s family values survey ask questions based wholly on their stance on one choice. Where are you on abortion? The give it numerical definition: Marking “1” communicates the candidates’ beliefs that “abortion should be legal in any case.” Inking the number “6” signifies a belief that “abortion should be illegal in all cases”.
Overwhelmingly, the respondents are on the side of abortion is no-go unless there are threats to life; with about 18.5% of respondents going so far as supporting the illegality of abortion in all cases. Kim Skipper, David Eastman, Ralph Seekins, Mike Dunleavy, and Bob Bell all stated that abortion should be outlawed – regardless of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. And in all cases, the respondents would vote to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. I am not sure they even see the hypocrisy in those two opposing answers. For example, Paul Landfield, in comment, takes specific aim at advocating for safe sex practices, but opposes funding Planned Parenthood.
These candidates take a heavy stance on making decisions for women. And none, at least within the confines of this survey, advocate alternative choices. Of course, politically speaking, “choice” is a bad word when talking about pregnancy. The moment you say “choice”, people dive into their respective corners and put up dukes.
It has been said, and deserves saying again: No one wants an abortion – that is a fact. No sane person revels in the idea of a woman undergoing a procedure that terminates a pregnancy. But it is also a fact that some women need to terminate their pregnancy. When they need to get an abortion, they will seek and find an abortion. Even if Google takes the place of the doctor. Avoiding that fact only muddies where the conversation should really go.
I would prefer to see the candidates talk about what they might do to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I would be very interested to see the respondents’ positions on measures taken by the Affordable Care Act that help women have free access to birth control. I would like to hear why they would vote to defund Planned Parenthood or Denali Kid Care – services that could HELP pregnant women with any choices they struggle to make. How do these respondents feel about providing public assistance to women who decide to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and either raise the child on their own or give the child up for adoption? I can attest, the choice these pro-life politicians would most likely support, having the baby & giving it up for adoption was NOT the most economical or easiest choice to make.
Of course, none of these questions came up in the survey.
If the candidates cannot offer solutions to these things they would so adamantly oppose, then they are only throwing their fireball opinions into the roiling cauldron of the problem.
History will not resolve the abortion issue quite so quickly or decisively as that of equal marriage rights. But closing the door on options until we have a more perfect solution is not the means to solving anything.