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Alaska lawmakers pass abortion funding bill

By Alexis Fernandez 4:09 PM April 14, 2014

The Alaska Legislature has passed a controversial bill defining what constitutes a medically necessary abortion for purposes of Medicaid reimbursement.

On Monday, the Senate voted 13-7 to pass the measure, and on Sunday the House passed it 23-17. The House version removed an amendment for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which would have expanded family services.

Under the new measure, the state Medicaid program can only cover abortions that pose a serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman, and must fall under new criteria of 21 specific conditions.

Jessica Cler, with Planned Parenthood in Anchorage, says this bill is unconstitutional and hurts one group of women.

“Unfortunately the list is so restrictive that it’s tandem to a ban on abortion funding for low-income women that won’t be able to get the services that they need because of both the regulation and this bill,” Cler said.

Right now, in order to qualify for a medically necessary abortion under Medicaid, a doctor must sign off.

Last year, Gov. Sean Parnell approved new regulations similar to those in this bill.

The rules were supposed to go into effect last month, but Planned Parenthood sued and it’s now on hold awaiting trial.

“There shouldn’t be a list in the first place, politicians shouldn’t be making lists telling doctors how to treat what is best for their patients. Medical professionals should be able to determine what is the best care for their patients,” Cler said.

According to the Alaska Deptartment of Health and Social Services, in 2013 Medicaid paid for 513 of the 1,450 abortions performed in Alaska.

Supporters of the bill say the state should not pay for elective abortions, and this helps clarify who’s eligible.

Alaska Family Action released a statement saying:

“This bill will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted by paying for abortions that have no medical purpose whatsoever,” said Jim Minnery, president of AFA.

While lawmakers say the new rules are here to stay, Planned Parenthood says their fight is far from over.

We talked to Sen. John Coghill, a Republican from North Pole and the sponsor of SB49.

Coghill says this bill provides clarification for doctors, as the federal government left it up to states to decide what constitutes medically necessary.

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