Alaska Legislature Leaves Medicaid Coverage of Abortions Unchanged Because Reps Hate Birth Control


In 2012 a backdoor attempt by the Alaska legislature to limit the kinds of abortions that could be funded by the state’s Medicaid coverage turned into a heated debate, and an effort to force through unconstitutional regulations on abortions. The state Supreme Court advised the Department of Health that the restrictions would likely be struck down, so the administration gave up its plan to limit Medicaid coverage for abortion care until the 2013 legislature took up the mantle once more.

Thankfully, the issue is being laid to rest once more. Despite pressure from bill sponsor Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole), a bill to limit abortion coverage to cases of rape, incest or “serious health” reasons has failed to pass this session. Why? Because anti-choice legislators hate birth control.

SB 49 would have provided a list of medically-acceptable times in which a patient could access an abortion, including severe pre-eclampsia, ectopic pregnancies, pulmonary hypertension or pre-term labor with a dilation of at least 6 cm. Currently, in order for an abortion to be covered a doctor only needs to confirm it is necessary for the pregnant person’s health without giving a qualifying medical condition.

Coghill’s bill ran into immediate opposition when he first drafted it to allow abortions for rape in the case that the crime was reported to police “promptly.” After public outcry, Coghill walked back his undefined “prompt” reporting requirement but left the rest of the proposal in place.

SB 49 passed the Senate in early April, but the House never took it up for a vote. The reason it failed? An amendment that would have required that the state pick up the vast majority of the tab for low-income family planning costs. The House attempted to reintroduce the bill without the family planning amendment but ran out of time, causing the whole bill to be shelved. When it comes to preventing pregnancy for low-income women, Alaska’s anti-choice contingent remains stoically opposed. According to the Alaska Dispatch, Alaska Family Action’s Jim Minnery told the Anchorage Daily News that “he would rather the bill not pass the House than have it pass with the family-planning amendment in tow.”

Now those are family values.

The bill will be taken up again for more debate in January of 2014.

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