Gov signs 'medically necessary' abortion bill

Public dollars to pay for abortions only in cases of rape, incest or if mother faces serious health risk

Republican Gov. Sean Parnell signed into law Thursday a bill to legally define the term “medically necessary” in relation to abortion funding criteria.

 

Supporters say the bill is not related to the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate but is an issue about how abortions are funded under Medicaid.

“We are simply trying to define, using relevant, neutral legal and medical standards, when it is appropriate for the people of Alaska to pay for a truly medically necessary abortion,” said Sen. John Coghill, R-Fairbanks and one of the bill’s primary sponsors.

Under the bill, public dollars will only pay for abortions that are the result of rape or incest, or when the woman is at risk of death or major bodily injury.

Democrats in the House and Senate tried to add language covering funding for family planning programs intended to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, but those efforts failed. The House removed those sections this year.

The Republican majority rejected the proposal because they said it didn’t fit the focus of the bill, which was a funding clarification.

Juneau Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz proposed an amendment on the House floor to include psychiatric disorders among the list of “medically necessary” criteria, but that effort narrowly failed, 19-21.

A second try that would have only included psychiatric disorders that put the woman at risk of death also failed, that time 20-20.

Opponents to the bill said the Legislature shouldn’t be telling doctors what is and what is not “medically necessary,” and that the bill raises constitutional concerns.

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