The transcript of former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman’s remarks for Sanctity of Human Life Day, given on the steps of Alaska’s Capitol to a audience of about 100 on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018.
Greetings, pro-life friends. It’s good to be back with you at the Capitol. The first rally I attended on these steps was 29 years ago. I was a new member of the House that January. Some of you were here.
I know it takes effort to stand for life. But doing what God tells us is always the right thing to do—even if there is a cost to it.
Many of you know that our Declaration of Independence identifies the right to life in its preamble, but did you know that our Alaska Constitution has this also? It’s right here in Article I, Section 1: This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry….
The words “all persons” don’t mean this right to life is only for the strong, the healthy, the wanted.
In the 45 years since the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, called by some at the time, “the decisions to forever end the debate on abortion,” we have instead lost 60 million people who could have made a difference in our world. And the debate continues, with perhaps a stronger division in our country on this issue than ever before. The good news is we have also seen a huge swing in public sentiment. More and more people recognize that abortion is not a good solution. It doesn’t lead to happiness and fulfillment.
SHOWING TRUTH AND LOVE
Thanks to advances in medical technology, we can see clearly that the developing baby is a well- formed human being from its earliest days of life. My wife Carolyn and I were blessed with three children—and we saw each of them before they were born. That was exciting. And more recently we have seen even better images of our seventh grandchild, a little boy, who will be born next month.
I’m told that 9 out of 10 girls and women considering abortion choose life when helped honestly with life-affirming choices. What are we doing to help?
- Showing mothers pictures of their unborn baby
- Making adoption easier
- Giving facts about the health risks of abortion
- Providing love and support
I’d like to tell you about my personal involvement in this story.
I have been asked many times what was most memorable for me in elected office. We tackled huge issues—much like what the Legislature and Governor are dealing with today.
We passed budgets that in total exceeded $100 billion. That’s a lot of money. Those were important, but they weren’t the most important.
We worked to improve education and make it more accountable–that too was important, but not the most important.
We improved opportunities from oil, gas, mining, fisheries, and other resources. That’s very important, but I don’t consider that the most important
No, the most memorable to me was being able to help, perhaps just in some small way, the poor, the defenseless, the forgotten, the little people.Examples of adoption assistance
I have engaged personally in the adoption of at least 19 children into loving families:
I wrote a letter of support for a couple from Valdez. A decade later when I was visiting that community they introduced me to their boys, then 10 and 11, and told me my letter made the difference with the Russian authorities.
Carolyn and I provided support for a couple in Anchorage who adopted two girls from an orphanage in Russia. After they had time to enjoy their lives with their new parents, the girls remembered two girls left behind at the orphanage, talked their parents into pursuing these friends, and created artwork to sell to help raise the money to bring them into their family.
In the early 1990s I was called by a man concerned about his daughter-in-law’s challenges with bringing her orphaned baby boy and toddler girl back from Romania after its revolution. Although it was Good Friday, and much of Washington, DC shuts down for Easter weekend, I made a call, others acted, the problem was solved and this mother brought her two adopted children back to Alaska.
I spoke at the young man’s high school graduation 18 years later.
Many of these adoptions were for what might be called “throw-away children.” But these children weren’t discarded. Somebody cared enough to take them, show them love, and give them hope.
Why do I tell you about these? I don’t consider my actions at the time that profound, but they made a difference. As you become aware of challenges someone else faces, you might be able to help, perhaps by offering a word of encouragement that helps write another wonderful story.
PARENTAL INVOLVMENT LEGISLATION
I also want to tell you about a long journey for more than 20 years. When I was in the Senate I introduced legislation to ensure that a parent would have to consent to a young daughter’s abortion decision—just like we do for any other medical procedure. In Alaska a girl as young as 13 or 14 could get an abortion without her parents even knowing about it. With strong support from colleagues in the Legislature, we got that bill passed over a Governor’s veto.
Planned Parenthood and abortion providers sued to keep that law from being enforced. That was the start of a 10 year battle in the Courts—with the Alaska Supreme Court eventually saying it agrees the State of Alaska has an important governmental interest in the health of children and protecting them from their own immaturity—but parental consent is not the least restrictive way to do this. The majority in this 3-2 decision spoke considerably about the benefit of parental notification over consent, implying it would have to reconsider its decision if Alaska adopted that less restrictive provision instead.
Well, we did that in 2010 with Ballot Measure 2 that we took to the people of Alaska—and it passed with resounding support. Thank you!
In its first year in effect we are told it saved 26 lives, and continued providing that benefit during the next four years. I’d like to meet some of those 130 people some day.
However, in a great travesty of justice and show of arrogance, the same Court in July 2016 said even parental notification is unconstitutional. The only justice who got it right was Chief Justice Craig Stowers. The other four justices rendered their opinion despite the fact that 41 states have some type of parental involvement provision in their statutes—all allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court as long as they have a properly designed judicial bypass, which ours did.
Even ultra liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg supports parental involvement provisions.
So, what did the four justices find unique in Alaska’s constitution that no one else could find? They used more than 60 pages of legal sophistry to justify a position that makes no sense. The truth is they lied. Planned Parenthood and their cohorts are dead wrong!
Even though the law is really about parental rights, because it touches on abortion, it threatens their business. The Court demonstrated it is ruled by ideology—not legal reasoning. Those four judges lied to the people of Alaska, our Legislature, and the Governors who have supported the law.
Those of us who have a respect for human life and parental rights have difficulty understanding why doctors would even consider operating on a child without a parent knowing about it. And we certainly have trouble understanding why Alaska’s Supreme Court would poke us in the eye, suggesting it knows more about parental rights than we do. Those judges should be held responsible.
If we allow decisions like this to go unchallenged, put the wrong people on the Courts, or confirm them when they are already there, we can expect judges to continue to run roughshod over we the people, the real owners of our constitution.
I challenge the Legislature and Governor to fix this. And I ask you to stay involved. There will be opportunity for you to stand up and speak up. You are privileged to live in the Capital City. Do what many Alaskans can’t do easily. Come to the Capitol and testify on important issues.
I’m not giving up. I’ll be standing with you. May God be with you as you go.
Loren Leman was the eighth Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. Before that, he served in both houses of the Alaska Legislature, and was elected as the Senate Majority Leader by the end of his term.