Pending Regulation Might Disqualify Some Low-Income Women for State-paid Abortions
ANCHORAGE - A proposed state health regulation is being described by both a supporter and an opponent as an attempt to restrict state-paid abortions for low-income women.
The state Department of Health and Social Services proposes to remove the reference to a woman's psychological health from its definition of a medically necessary abortion.
The department won't comment on the rationale for that, but others think the effect would be to reduce the number of state-paid abortions.
"The current regulation that we're operating under talks about ameliorating a woman's health, physical or psychological health,” said Clover Simon, spokeswoman for abortion provider Planned Parenthood. “It's pretty specific to both her physical body and then also to her mental health. And this new definition just says health. And we don't know what that means. Does it include her mental health or not?"
Representative Wes Keller of Wasilla, who introduced a bill to stop public funding of as many abortions as possible, says he supports the new definition.
"Because that term 'psychological' is undefined, the end result has been that there is no way to tell what an elective abortion is. Therefore it was left wide open. Basically, all abortions -- any abortion that was asked for, was done."
Planned Parenthood objects to new paperwork requirements in the proposed regulation.
Simon said: "For the last 19 years, we have just charted in our medical record the medical necessity for the abortion and billed Medicaid as we would for any other medical procedure, so this would be a departure from that."
In a written statement, the health department says that part of the regulation is intended to “avoid payment errors” and “to verify that funds are being used in accord with the law.”
Thereafter, the real fight could begin.