On Monday, three Republican state senate candidates debated their positions on reproductive rights during a social issues forum at the Community Covenant Church in Eagle River, Alaska. The forum was sponsored by Alaska Family Action, an affiliate of the anti-choice group Focus on the Family.
Michael Pauley, an Alaska Family Action lobbyist, helped moderate the debate between Joe Miller, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, and former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan.
According to Alaska Public Media, Miller said that he doesn’t believe restrictions on abortion should include exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. “This is the barometer of ‘We the people,’” he said. “Are we going to protect the most defenseless, or are we going to give platitudes?”
In 2010, Miller ran for U.S. Senate, defeating incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary with the endorsement of former Gov. Sarah Palin, along with endorsements from conservative groups and the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List. However, Murkowski defeated Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams in the general election, becoming the first U.S. Senate candidate from any state in over 50 years to win a write-in campaign.
At Monday’s debate, the other two candidates outlined less hardlined anti-choice positions. Treadwell said that the only exception to abortion restrictions should be if both the mother and fetus would die without the procedure, while Sullivan said that an exception should be made for cases of rape and incest.
Sullivan clarified that while he doesn’t personally support abortion “in those situations,” he believes because those situations are so “horrendous,” the decision should be one “that the family should be making.”
Miller criticized the other two candidates for blocking in 2010 and 2011 efforts to outlaw abortion in the state. When Treadwell told Miller that it was wrong to criticize him for “following the law” set by the state supreme court, Miller quickly retorted, “You know, we’ve heard that argument before, ‘I was just following orders.’” This was an apparent reference to the Nuremberg Defense, also known as superior orders, in which Nazis convicted of war crimes claimed innocence because they were “following orders.”
Public opinion polls show Sullivan with double-digit leads over both Treadwell and Miller, but incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is reportedly leading the pack.
Alaska’s primary is set for August 19.