Alaska House Approves Bill Limiting State-Funded Abortions

The Alaska House recently passed legislation defining a "medically necessary" abortion, essentially placing limits on state funding for an abortion.

Those supporting the legislation, Senate Bill 49, argue that the bill does not discriminate against who may receive an abortion, but rather ensures that state funds are not used to pay for elective abortions through Medicaid. The bill passed the state's House by a 23 to 17 vote on Sunday evening.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, (R-Anchorage), who is sponsoring the House version of the bill, argued that the legislation's intent is not to limit abortion access, as some opponents of the bill argue that its purpose is to prevent low-income women from receiving the procedure.

"This bill has nothing to do with restricting a women's right to an abortion," she said, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Rep. LeDoux later added: "We've got the right to travel, but it doesn't mean the government buys us a ticket to Paris. We've got the right to bear arms, but the government doesn't buy us a Sturm Ruger."

The bill's text provides a list of medical situations that would warrant a Medicaid-funded abortion, including issues such as coma, epilepsy, or sickle cell anemia. Cases of rape, incest, or grave danger to the woman's health also fall under "medically necessary" abortion coverage, but there is no explicit coverage for mental health.

Along with concerns that the bill will limit access to abortion, opponents of the legislation have also argued that the bill will not save the state money, as it will surely be contested in court. "Litigation will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, just as it has in the past," said Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage).

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest filed a lawsuit against the state last year after Governor Sean Parnell's administration approved similar medical requirements for state-funded abortions. Implementation of the provisions has been suspended until a trial can take place.

Some legislators suggested that a provision establishing a women's health program be added to the bill to offer family planning and birth control to men and women through Medicaid, therefore possibly reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions. This provision was stripped by the House on Sunday evening.

After being approved by the House, a stripped-down version of the bill was sent back to Senate on Monday. The bill was re-approved by a 13-7 vote, and now heads to the governor's desk for approval.

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