An Alaska state court judge this week temporarily blocked a law that created a narrow definition for when abortions were “medically necessary” and therefore covered under Alaska Medicaid.
The law, SB 49, gives doctors a strict list of 21 reasons someone on Medicaid would qualify for a “medically necessary abortion,” pulling language from a 2001 decision by the state’s Supreme Court which declared that Alaska was required to cover abortion care for women in the Medicaid program when their physicians found them “medically necessary.” The law has been criticized for discriminating against low-income women by preventing them from accessing proper abortion care with Medicaid funds.
“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, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “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.”
This case marks the second time Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has challenged the law as unconstitutional. They are represented in the current case by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, the ACLU of Alaska, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Susan Orlansky of Anchorage. Both times, their lawsuits have caused a temporary block on the law as the challenge continued through legal proceedings.
“This decision ensures that Alaskan women facing difficult economic circumstances will not have crucial insurance coverage taken away if they need to end a pregnancy,” Janet Crepps, senior counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “The Alaska state constitution protects women against discrimination in the provision of insurance coverage for the full range of reproductive health care, and we will continue to defend this right against those who seek to take it away.”
Media Resources: RH Reality Check 7/16/14; The Alaska State Legislature; Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest 2/7/14