June 17, 2024

Why does Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor think your health information is his business?

For an Attorney General in an administration that straddles the virtues of limited government, Treg Taylor seems to be working hard to push the state into the most private and difficult choices Alaska faces. After co-signing a letter that effectively bullied Walgreens into ending plans to carry the abortion drug mifepristone, despite its legal status in Alaska, Taylor has attached his name to a flagrant invasion of Alaskan privacy.

This time, Taylor co-signed a letter from the Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch to Federal Secretary of Health and Social Services Xavier Becerra, demanding that states should have the right to investigate and compel other states to provide their residents’ medical records regarding abortions or sex-changing procedures — even if the abortions in question are legal in the states where they are performed.

The gist of the letter is simple: If you leave Alaska and seek an abortion or gender affirming care, Treg Taylor wants to know about it so he can determine if it’s legal or not. As he said in the letter, “The conclusion whether such care is lawful depends on the ability of state authorities to make an informed decision based on relevant evidence…” In this case, he considers private medical records to be “relevant evidence”.

It’s hard to imagine what kind of information the government should have less right of access to. What business does a state have looking around in the medical data of its residents, much less health care procedures that took place outside its own borders? This is particularly true where the stated purpose of obtaining that information is to be able to prosecute individuals for receiving that medical care.

Under the state government model proposed by Fitch and endorsed by Taylor, states would have the power to collect vast amounts of sensitive information on their residents, and compel other states to turn over that information regardless of their own laws on privacy, abortion or other matters. However, Senator Cathy Giessel, herself a Republican who is personally against abortion, recognized the danger of Taylor’s position. “Health information is the closest personal possession anyone has,” Giessel told the ADN earlier this week. “We are all Americans and personal property is a fundamental right that we all have.”

If Taylor cannot see the terrible precedent the case raises, he is willfully ignorant of its logical extensions beyond issues of abortion and gender-affirming care. Imagine, for example, if California could force Alaska to turn over firearm purchase records here because of that state’s gun ban. Imagine if Utah passed tough laws against well-wishers traveling to other states to gamble and asked Nevada to provide them with records of Utahns’ trips to Las Vegas. There are a number of issues where states may attempt to control the behavior of their residents across their borders, and almost all of them involve massive invasions of privacy and massive increases in states’ surveillance powers.

That’s a problem in every state, of course, but it’s especially antithetical to our values ​​here in Alaska, where residents’ right to privacy is directly enshrined in the state constitution. Alaska’s support for that right extends even to topics as divisive as abortion, where it is more than 60% of Alaskans the Pew Research Group gave him a positive answer about the question. Simply put, Alaskans across the political spectrum, regardless of party affiliation, do not want the government to interfere in their personal affairs any more than necessary.

Why, then, does Attorney General Taylor continue to sign off on reasons that would increase the government’s ability to monitor Alaskan behavior? Is he doing so under the direction of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, or is he acting without the governor’s blessing? These are questions that both Taylor and Dunleavy should answer to Alaska’s satisfaction. For his part, the governor refuses to answer.

Taylor’s response so far – that he recognizes that Alaska’s constitutional right to privacy would prevent our state from snooping into residents’ medical data, but wants to preserve the ability of other states – is obscene. The head of the Alaska Department of Law cannot be so short in that work that he undertakes crusades on behalf of another state that flies in the face of our own constitution.

Bottom line: Alaskans expect and deserve their privacy, and they should expect the surveillance state that Attorney General Taylor wants to enable.

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