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My Turn: Setting the facts straight on SB49

Posted: March 6, 2014 - 12:02am

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the March 5, 2014, opinion piece by Chris Ashenbrenner on legislation dealing with public funding for abortion.

It is important to respond because her piece is missing key facts. Executive Order 13535 signed by President Obama on March 24, 2010, reaffirms federal restrictions on public funding for abortions. In response to this order, Senate Bill 49 attempts to establish a medical definition in state law for publicly funded abortion.

In 2013, 547 abortions were paid for by the state of Alaska through the Medicaid program. State employee health care insurance also pays for medically necessary abortions. Wells Fargo last year paid for seven abortions under this provision of insurance coverage.

I voted to move SB49 out of the House Finance Committee and recommended that it be amended in the committee report that I signed. Like Ms. Ashenbrenner, I believe the bill is not perfect. I will present an amendment on the House floor to add language so that it covers psychiatric disorders, making the measure consistent with current state regulations. If SB49 fails, the medical-necessary definition is already in state law through regulations adopted by the Department of Health and Social Services.

In the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, we have included $33.4 million for public health nursing facilities that provide family planning services for low-income Alaskans at no charge at 31 clinics across the state including Juneau. There also are itinerant nurses who visit 280 small communities and villages a year.

The Medicaid amendment for family planning is still being considered. It is important to get an accurate picture of the costs of this new program. Many legislators, including myself, are gathering information and asking questions before we vote on SB49.

With all difficult issues, people on both sides tend to paint a black-and-white picture. Politics is never black and white. I always will vote based on the information before me, not on political expediency. Thank you for the chance to address this public policy matter.

• Rep. Cathy Muñoz is a Repubican representing Juneau.

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Art Petersen
Art Petersen 03/06/14 - 08:36 am
Let's see

what this response is saying. Is it that Senator Coghill sponsored SB49 because of President Obama's March 2010 Executive Order 13535? If so, what has been the case for the past four years? Is it that the bill was advanced (by a margin of one vote) because the medical community needs an Alaska state definition of what is "medically necessary"? If so, why isn't the American Medical Association involved? The Alaska Legislature is not AMA certified, is it? Next, the bill was forwarded in a flawed state with a recommendation to amend and a promise to do so on the floor of the house. So what happens if the amendment is not agreed to and the bill is passed? Alaska is then stuck with a flawed law, all because of one vote--a law that will probably, like so many others, be reversed by the Alaska Supreme Court. But, as the reasoning goes, if SB49 does not pass, "the medical-necessary definition is already in state law...." So the executive order is already being followed, and SB49 isn't really needed. ... Many more points in the response lead to questions, making the whole issue unclear and questionable. One thing in the response seems beyond question, though: "Politics is never black or white." Or reasonably transparent.

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