Planned Parenthood sues Alaska over law requiring abortion providers to be doctors

The building that houses the Juneau Planned Parenthood facility on May 12, 2018. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging an Alaska law that prohibits nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives from providing abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands sued the state and the state’s medical and nursing boards in Anchorage Superior Court.

Kim Clark, a lawyer who worked on the lawsuit, noted that Alaska law requires doctors to provide abortions.

“That’s a problem, especially in a state like Alaska, where so many folks live in rural parts of the state, and the state is extremely reliant on advanced practice clinicians,” said Clark, referring to the umbrella term for the providers.

She said these clinicians provide both primary care and reproductive health care in much of the state. And they provide many procedures that are more complex than abortions, such as assisting with childbirth.

Clark is a senior attorney for Legal Voice, a Seattle-based organization that advocates for women and LGBTQ people in the Northwest.

States passed laws requiring doctors to perform abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. They were intended to prevent unsafe abortions.

But the procedure has changed since then, including more abortions from medication. And some states have passed laws allowing providers other than doctors to provide abortions.

Clark argues the Alaska law is outdated.

“Not only has the procedure become safer, but this entire class of highly-skilled medical practitioners has really arisen since those statutes were initially passed,” she said.

A Department of Law spokesperson said the state hadn’t been served with the lawsuit and would respond to it in court.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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