Alaska Legislator Seeks to Shame and Coerce Women and Physicians with New Forms For Medicaid-Funded Abortions


Note: This piece was updated at 11:15 to correct that it would be the doctors, not the women, who would be reimbursed for the cost of the procedure.

After nearly 20 years, the anti-choice members of the Alaska legislature have made it clear that they trust physicians willing to give abortions about as much as they trust women willing to get them. Translation: Not at all.

Supported by notoriously anti-choice Republican Governor Sean Parnell, the legislature proposed a regulation change that will redefine how a woman who is on Medicaid gets reimbursed for the cost of the procedure if it is deemed by her physician to be medically necessary.

Rather than allow doctors to note in her file that the he or she decided that the abortion was in the best interest of her health, there will instead be a separate form that will need to be completed and sent in to the state. According to the state release:

• 7 AAC 145.695, Abortion payment conditions, is a proposed new section that clarifies current payment practices related to payment conditions for abortions. The conditions are based on the Hyde Amendment which allows for federal funding of abortions when a pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest, or in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.

• 7 AAC 160.900, Requirements adopted by reference, is proposed to be amended to adopt by reference the form titled, Certificate to Request Federal (Medicaid) or State (General) Funds for Abortion.
Providers will be required to submit this form to the department when abortion services are performed for Medicaid and Denali Kid Care recipients.

The form itself gives the following options:

I certify that prior to performing the abortion procedure on the above patient I obtained a non-notarized signed statement from the patient that her pregnancy was the result of an act of (select one)

rape or

incest. That statement is now part of the patient’s medical record;

OR

I certify that in my professional judgment, the abortion procedure on the above patient was performed due to physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion was performed, based on full consideration of all factors as described in the attached operative report;
OR
I certify that neither of the above applies. If this box is checked, one of the following must be selected:

State General Funding (available only if federal funding criteria are not met)

I certify that the abortion performed was not an elective procedure and I certify that in my professional judgment, the abortion was performed due to the health of the woman being endangered by the pregnancy;

OR
I certify that the above statement does not apply. This procedure is not eligible for reimbursement.

The form is not considered valid without an original signature from “recipient’s attending physician,” no one else in the office will suffice, including a nurse, attendant, or assistant.

“This new regulation is designed only to impose burdens on physicians who provide abortions,” said Clover Simon, Alaska Team Lead at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, via statement. “Politics does not play a part in any other medical professional’s decision-making, it should not play a part in women’s health, either. Restricting access to state funded abortion is blatant government overreach and an attempt to shame and demean a poor woman seeking her legal pregnancy options.”

Without a properly completed and signed form, doctors would not be reimbursed for her care, something about which, historically, Alaska has actually been  consistently good.

Although the regulation would place increased burdens on doctors, women would suffer as well. The forms add a new layer of personal medical data that could be compromised and end up in the public eye. “Her name is on the form, said Sara Kiesler, Communications Specialist for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. “Alaska is a small state.”

Advocates for women’s rights and privacy have reason to be concerned.  After all, it was in early May that Kansas-based rabidly anti-choice activist group Operation Rescue, known for its harassment of abortion providers and often patients, announced they had somehow come into possession of records of women who had obtained abortions at a local clinic in the state. They released redacted copies of the records to prove their claim – as well as remind women that they were now holding on to personal details that could include their names, and home addresses.

The state is accepting public comments on the new rule until July 30th, 2012.

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