Judge Temporarily Blocks Alaska Law Restricting ‘Medically Necessary’ Abortions


On Tuesday, an Alaska state court judge temporarily blocked a law designed to limit abortion access for the state’s low-income residents by further defining when an abortion is considered “medically necessary” in order to be covered by the Alaska Medicaid program.

The law, SB 49, is similar to regulations approved by the state health commissioner earlier in the year. Both seek to circumvent a 2001 decision by the Alaska Supreme Court ordering the state to cover abortions that a woman’s physician says are “medically necessary.” SB 49 requires doctors to select from a list of 21 pre-approved reasons why an abortion would be “medically necessary.” Those reasons do not include any consideration of psychiatric disorders.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged both the law and the regulations as unconstitutional. In February, a state court judge temporarily blocked the regulations from taking effect while that lawsuit proceeds. Similarly, Tuesday’s order temporarily blocks SB 49 while Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge proceeds. In issuing the order Tuesday, Superior Court Judge John Suddock said Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit raised “substantial issues” as to the constitutionality of SB 49 and is entitled to a hearing.

“The politicians who passed this law were playing a dangerous game of keep away with women’s health by trying to withhold Medicaid coverage from qualified women,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement following the ruling. “A woman shouldn’t have to choose between paying her heating bill and protecting her health. But that will be the reality if this law stands, with the end result that a woman in the state of Alaska will have worse health care simply because she’s poor.”

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  • fiona64

    Glad to see someone with some sense weighing in. Non-MDs need to refrain from “playing doctor” and trying to make medical decisions for complete strangers.

    • StealthGaytheist

      I agree. Politicians and religious zealots are the last people who should have say in the matter, and lately they’re the only one’s given voice or power.

  • feminista

    Abhorrent how they dismiss psychological illness

  • Jennifer Jonsson

    It’s interesting that these rulings never seem to take into account the non-psychiatric consequences of being pregnant with a psychiatric illness. I’m taking eight medications, which isn’t unusual for someone living with my condition. At least half of them are known to cause fetal abnormalities and one, which comes with a “black box” warning, specifically says “Do not take while pregnant.” By the time I knew I was pregnant, it would be too late to taper down the medications (which takes months, if it could even be done) in hopes of not harming the infant, and going off all of them at once would probably kill me or induce a miscarriage or both. So my options would be to have the abortion or try to carry a possibly fatally malformed fetus to term while psychotic. There are no happy endings possible there.