Planned Parenthood says state ignores abortion law

Group asks court to issue state citation

Posted: Friday, June 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE -- Planned Parenthood wants a judge to issue a contempt citation against the state for disregarding a court order to provide therapeutic abortions for poor women.

The Knowles administration stopped paying for abortions under the state's various medical programs for the poor in 1999. That came after the Legislature cut off funding.

The only exceptions are cases where pregnancies result from incest or rape, or where an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.

As a result, the number of state-funded abortions fell from 843 in fiscal 1997 to eight in the first nine months of fiscal 2000, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.

Superior Court Judge Sen Tan said the policy is unconstitutional because it discriminates against pregnant women who choose not to give birth. That ruling came in a lawsuit brought last March by Planned Parenthood and two doctors.

Tan agreed that the Legislature may choose to fund whatever programs it wants. But he ruled that if it opts to provide medical care for pregnant poor women, then it can't favor women who decide to deliver over those who seek a medically recommended abortion.

Janet Clarke, director of administrative services for Health and Social Services, testified at a hearing Thursday that the governor's office tried several times to get money from the Legislature for medically approved abortions but failed.

The agency can't pay for the abortions using money earmarked for other purposes because money usually can't be transferred from one account to another without legislative approval, Clarke said.

Planned Parenthood lawyer Christine Schleuss said the department had $2.4 million in transferable accounts in its budget ending June 30, some of which could have been diverted to obey the court ruling.

The case is scheduled to continue with a hearing next month.

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