Alaska Airlines said on Friday that, regardless of a U.S Supreme Court ruling that effectively overturned the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the carrier will continue to reimburse employee travel expenses for particular medical procedures and treatments if they are not available where they live. 

Employees of Horizon Air, a regional airline and subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, also benefit.

Further details 

This Friday saw the U.S Supreme Court overturn constitutional protections for abortion that had stood in the United States for nearly 50 years. Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, was a momentous decision. The decision gave women the right to an abortion and was historical for that reason alone, but the case also acted as the backbone for various civil rights in the U.S in matters such as same-sex marriage and the rights of homosexuals in the country. Overturning Roe v. Wade, therefore, has the potential to threaten the sanctity of other crucial decisions. 

The court’s conservative majority overturning the ruling means that the country can now expect abortion bans in roughly half of its states, primarily in the South.

US protestors, activists and demonstrators for abortion rights
Protestors, activists and demonstrators marching for abortion rights on Pennsylvania Avenue, USA in Washington in 1970. | © Getty Images

In a statement Andy Schneider, Senior Vice President of People at Alaska Airlines, said that the carrier will continue “to provide employees with benefits to support your health and well-being” and asserted that Friday’s “Supreme Court decision does not change that.”

Schneider also encouraged empathy, understanding, and kindness amongst staff during this trying and divisive time “regardless of your individual views.” 

Elsewhere, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which acts as a hub for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, also said that it would welcome anyone travelling to Washington for access to abortion care on a social media post. 

The attitude held by Alaska Airlines may be explained by the stance the state of Alaska has taken on the matter of abortion. 

According to Rose O’Hara-Jolley, Alaska’s Planned Parenthood Alliance State Director, the state has a strong right to privacy in its constitution, and a woman’s ability to get a safe and legal abortion will continue. She added:

“So the overturning of the federal protection of that right to privacy applying to abortion does not immediately impact Alaska. Our state Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that our state constitutional right to privacy covers that right to an abortion.” 

This means that Alaska is not a part of the group of states – known as “trigger ban” states – where access to abortion will end abruptly following Friday’s ruling. This is shown in past actions from the state. 

Alaska’s courts have previously leaned on a clause in the state constitution that protects individual privacy to preserve access to abortion in the state. 

Alaska’s Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that “reproductive rights are fundamental, and that they are encompassed within the right to privacy expressed in article I, section 22 of the Alaska Constitution.” The Court continued, asserting that those “fundamental reproductive rights include the right to an abortion.”

Abortion-rights protesters and abortion advocates gathered outside the Supreme Court following its decision to overturn Roe v Wade
Pro-abortion-rights protesters and advocates gathered outside the Supreme Court following its decision to overturn Roe v Wade this Friday. | © Gemunu Amarasinghe/The Associated Press

O’Hara-Jolley is still expecting some ripples in the water following the Supreme Court’s decision, especially as, even before Roe v. Wade was overturned, some Alaska lawmakers had tried repeatedly to limit access to abortion in the state. 

“We know that they’re going to try to come against that because they already do.” 

Some have been openly celebrating Friday’s decision too, demonstrating how things could quickly change in Alaska. 

Republican Wasilla Rep. Christopher Kurka, who is running for governor in Alaska, referred to the ruling on Roe v. Wade as “immoral and unconstitutional” and expressed how “overjoyed” they were that it had been overturned. 

Kurka later called on Governor Mike Dunleavy to call a special legislative session to work on anti-abortion legislation. Dunleavy, too, is pro-life, and against the constitutional right, Roe v. Wade provided women for over 50 years. 

What do you make of Alaska’s decision? Please keep all discussions respectful in the comments! 

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