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No more state funding for elective abortions

State certifies new definitions of 'medically necessary'

Posted: January 7, 2014 - 3:24pm  |  Updated: January 8, 2014 - 1:06am

New abortion regulations adopted by the State of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services will prevent Medicaid from covering elective abortions.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell certified the regulations Friday, which will take effect Feb. 2.

The department’s document to request Medicaid funds for an abortion lists 23 medical conditions that are covered. Some of those conditions include severe preeclampsia, convulsions, sickle cell anemia, severe kidney infection, epilepsy and congestive heart failure.

A doctor must either certify that the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or that the pregnancy would put the woman “in danger of death.”

A bill introduced by an anti-abortion senator during last year’s session aimed to enact similar regulations. The bill, introduced by Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, passed the Senate but not the House. The bill did not include provisions for women suffering from mental health issues. The department’s regulations say that a pregnant woman with a psychiatric disorder would have to be “in imminent danger of medical impairment of a major bodily function” to have an abortion covered by Medicaid.

“I’m very appreciative of the Governor’s initiative on this matter,” Coghill said in a statement Tuesday. “State Medicaid should not be funding elective procedures, including elective abortions. I’d still like to see statutory language, passed by the Legislature, that defines ‘medically necessary abortions’ for the purposes of making payments under Medicaid.”

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said that a woman who chooses to have an abortion doesn’t need a checklist. She said the decision to have an abortion should happen between a woman and her doctor, and government shouldn’t concern itself with the process.

“Really, at this age, I thought we would be away from this and that a woman’s right to choose would be secure in America and that we would not be having these battles,” Kerttula said. “It’s a shame we even have to continue going through this, it really is.”

Democratic women, Rep. Geran Tarr, Rep. Harriet Drummond and Sen. Berta Gardner all from Anchorage, joined Kerttula in condemning the new regulations.

“These are private medical decisions that a woman makes in consultation with her family and doctor, not decisions that government should make,” Tarr said in a statement. “My concern is that women get safe medical care.”

“We know that access to affordable family planning services is an effective way to reduce abortion,” Gardner said in a statement. “That should be our priority.

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest called the regulations unconstitutional. Treasure Mackley, the group’s political and organizing director, said the new regulations would actually end up costing taxpayers more.

“If the Lt. Governor is actually interested in reducing abortions or saving money, he should focus on increasing access to birth control and funding for family planning services,” Mackley said in a statement.

The regulations are covered under the Hyde amendment, a federal provision that bars the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of incest, rape or endangerment to the life of the mother.

• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at jennifer.n.canfield@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/canfieldjenn.

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