The Alaska State House narrowly passed a bill that would put limits on state Medicaid payments for abortion.
The bill defines the term “medically necessary,” so it only covers physical harm – not psychological harm. Doctors would need to choose from a list of conditions like epilepsy and sickle cell anemia before the state covers the cost of the procedure.
Advocates for the bill, like Anchorage Republican Gabrielle LeDoux, said the point was to keep the state from paying for elective abortions.
“We’ve got the right to travel, but it doesn’t mean the government buys us a ticket to Paris,” said LeDoux. “We’ve got the right to bear arms, but the government doesn’t buy us a Sturm Ruger.”
Critics of the bill believe it will make it harder for low-income women to have access to abortion. Rep. Geran Tarr, an Anchorage Democrat, also suggested that the bill will not save money, because the law will inevitably end up in court.
“Litigation will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, just as it has in the past,” said Tarr.
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The Department of Health and Social Services introduced similar abortion regulations last year, but a judge put a stay on them after a lawsuit was filed on the grounds that the regulations violate the Equal Protection Clause.
The bill ultimately passed 23-17, splitting mostly on party lines. Republicans Lindsey Holmes of Anchorage, Paul Seaton of Homer, and Alan Austerman of Kodiak broke with their party and voted no.
The bill passed the Senate last year, with a provision establishing a women’s health program. Because the House stripped that program, the bill will have to be sent back to the Senate for concurrence.
- The city thinks Hecla's Greens Creek mine may be responsible. The mine says its discharges in the area meet state requirements.
- Sarah Erkmann, external affairs manager for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association trade group, said the tax amounts to “punishing” oil companies.
- The Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon canceled its annual convention slated to be held in Haines, mainly due to the weak Canadian dollar.
- For now, traffic in Gastineau Channel will not be restricted, but Hilbert said they will likely establish a no-wake zone during the actual salvage operation.