Alaska abortion laws are not as restrictive as many states, but a 2014 law that limited when abortions could be deemed “medically necessary” caused some debate. A lawsuit brought the legality of the law before the State Superior Court in February 2015.
SB49 specifically concerns women on Medicaid
and how taxpayer dollars are used to fund abortions. The bill states a “medically necessary abortion means that in a physician’s objective and reasonable professional judgment after considering medically relevant factors, an abortion must be performed to avoid a threat of serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman from continuation of the woman’s pregnancy.”
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Here are some quotes from that debate:
“There shouldn’t be a list at all. It’s up to women and their doctors to make these personal medical decisions—not an arbitrary list drafted by politicians and bureaucrats in Juneau.”
— Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest spokesman, Erik Houser, to RH Reality Check
, April 2014
“This is simply saying when something is medically necessary that we as a society will step up and help. When it’s not medically necessary, it’s really the responsibility of the individual seeking whatever services they choose.”
— Fairbanks Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole), Alaska Dispatch News
, April 2014
“When he signed SB 49 into law today, Governor Parnell reaffirmed his commitment to politicians coming between women and their doctors. Not only is this legislation unfair, restrictive, and harmful for low-income women and families, it’s also unconstitutional. SB 49 is a blatant attempt to put politicians between low-income women and access to abortion, and by removing the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, the legislature has made it clear that their only interest is restricting women’s pregnancy decisions—not promoting women’s health or reducing unintended pregnancies.”
— Alaska Planned Parenthood Public Affairs Manager Jessica Cler, in a statement
regarding SB 49
State attorney Dario Borghesan told the court that a prior state Supreme Court case helped the state determine where to draw the line on paying for procedures.
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“Medicaid does not cover every procedure that optimizes a person’s well-being. Medicaid does not cover every procedure that might improve your vision, or every surgery that helps you lose weight. A woman might be genuinely distraught because she can’t have a child, but Medicaid does not cover fertility treatments at all. So the line that this legislation draws…that Medicaid will cover an abortion if pregnancy poses a serious risk to your health, but not an abortion solely to protect your emotional well-being, is consistent with the line that it draws in other areas.”
— State Attorney Dario Borghesan, KSKA Anchorage
, February 2015
“Senator John Coghill’s bill (SB 49) is dangerous for Alaskan women. In a state where we have some of the highest rates of rape and incest, Coghill would force women in the most vulnerable circumstances to navigate the legal system in order to obtain the medical care they need. With the rate that assaults go unreported in our often small, tight-knit communities, this bill puts an unnecessary burden on Alaskan women.”
— Statement on the Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest website
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