Former Planned Parenthood worker rejected for midwives board

Alaska State Capitol in February. The Legislature rejected former Planned Parenthood worker Kenni Linden to be a member of the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives Tuesday. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Alaska Legislature rejected the appointment of a Palmer woman who is a former Planned Parenthood worker to a board that oversees midwives.

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Kenni Linden was the only one of Gov. Bill Walker’s appointees who was rejected out of 99 people up for confirmation on Tuesday.

Opposition to Linden’s appointment to the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives was centered on Planned Parenthood’s role in providing abortions.

Wasilla Republican Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard said during Linden’s March 7 confirmation hearing that her constituents opposed the appointment.

“Part of that work of Planned Parenthood is certainly to be a proponent for abortion,” Sullivan-Leonard said. “And the concerns that have been expressed to me have been that that is really contrary to what a midwife board position should hold.”

Linden was the Anchorage regional field organizer for Planned Parenthood, focusing on advocacy for Medicaid expansion and access to birth control. She also worked on dating violence prevention and sexual health education.

Linden said she left Planned Parenthood in July 2016 to have a baby. She said she’s disappointed that the lawmakers who opposed her didn’t reach out to her.

“I’m greatly disappointed that the conversation about midwifery was overshadowed by I think it seemed to be more political maneuvering,” Linden said.

Linden, who is six months’ pregnant, said she applied to the board on the recommendation of her own midwife.

“It’s really unfortunate, because I think the entire conversation got off track, for what midwifery care means,” Linden said. “And my experience and my previous employment with Planned Parenthood shows that I’m passionate about women’s health care and women’s access to health care, and I think that’s essentially what a midwifery client is looking for.”

The only person who addressed Linden’s appointment during the joint legislative session Tuesday was North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson.

“I just looked at the background, I listened to the hearing, and I just don’t think it’s a good fit for this board,” Wilson said.

The vote was 32 to 28 against confirming Linden’s appointment.

All but five Republicans — Senators Bert Stedman of Sitka and Gary Stevens of Kodiak and Representatives Jennifer Johnston of Anchorage, Paul Seaton of Homer and Louise Stutes of Kodiak — voted against Linden.

Golovin Sen. Donnie Olson was the only Democrat who opposed her. The independents were split, with Anchorage Rep. Jason Grenn voting no and Ketchikan Rep. Dan Ortiz voting yes.

No other appointee had more than 16 no votes. The other appointees included Commissioner of Administration Leslie Ridle, Commissioner of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Mike Navarre and Commissioner of Revenue Sheldon Fisher.