To US House candidates Begich and Palin, abortion is a state issue while Peltola says the decision is personal

three people at table.
Mary Peltola, Sarah Palin and Nick Begich are the candidates who will appear on the special election ballot in August. (Liz Rukin/Alaska Public Media)

Republican Sarah Palin said the federal government has no business making choices for individuals. But when it comes to abortion, she said the state government should decide.

“Faceless bureaucrats in some bubble far away — they’re going make decisions for us as individuals, and as a state, when it comes to an issue as important as abortion? No, it should be a state’s issue,” the former governor said Monday at an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce forum.

Palin, Nick Begich III and Mary Peltola — the candidates vying to serve the remaining months of the late Congressman Don Young’s term — staked out their views at the forum. They found agreement on some oil development issues, but on abortion the split was along party lines.

Palin said she agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down Roe v. Wade, the case that for 50 years prevented states from banning abortion. Palin said she’d been waiting for this day for years.

“Finally, the state — the people, through their representatives — their will will be done when it comes to this issue of abortion,” she said.

Begich, a Republican, also spoke of abortion as a states’ rights issue.

“Under the 10th Amendment, any powers not specifically enumerated to the federal government are reserved for the states,” he said. “We have a constitutional amendment process by which we may modify provisions related to this specific issue. But I think the court was correct in returning this issue to the states.”

Democrat Mary Peltola is the only candidate left on the special election ballot who says the law should protect an individual’s right to choose abortion.

“Reproductive rights are as personal of an issue as you could possibly get,” she said. “I do not believe the federal government, or for that matter the state government, has say-so in your personal body.”

All three candidates are parents. Palin and Peltola are also grandparents.

Palin said she was given the option to abort her pregnancy when she learned her youngest child would have special needs.

“What seems to be your life’s greatest challenge can turn into your life’s greatest blessing. That has happened to me,” she said.

Another candidate, Republican Tara Sweeney, was in the audience. She had hoped to be the fourth nominee on the special election ballot, replacing Al Gross who dropped out of the race last week. But the Alaska Supreme Court ruled Saturday that the law doesn’t allow the substitution.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the Supreme Court decision not to advance me to the final four,” said Sweeney, who favors abortion rights. Sweeney said she’s still a candidate for the regular election, to decide who will serve the two-year congressional term that begins in January.

Nine other candidates in the regular U.S. House primary withdrew before the dropout deadline, so only 22 names will appear on that that ballot. Voters will whittle that list down to four on Aug. 16, primary Election Day.

Aug. 16 is also the day voters will close out the special election. It will be their first opportunity to engage in ranked choice voting as they choose among Begich, Palin and Peltola.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.