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Judge Blocks Alaska Law on Medicaid Abortion Coverage

Judge Blocks Alaska Law on Medicaid Abortion Coverage

July 16, 2014 — An Alaska judge blocked a state law restricting abortion coverage in its Medicaid program from taking effect on Wednesday while he considers a Planned Parenthood lawsuit claiming that the legislation is unconstitutional, Alaska Public Media reports.

The law revises the state's definition of what constitutes a "medically necessary" abortion that is eligible for Medicaid coverage (Gutierrez, Alaska Public Media, 7/15).

In an injunction issued Tuesday, Superior Court Judge John Suddock noted that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest raised "substantial issues" regarding the restrictive nature of the law that "enhances the risk of constitutional invalidity" (AP/Washington Times, 7/15).

Background

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) signed the legislation (SB 49) into law in April. The law, which is similar to state regulations issued in January, states that abortions are only medically necessary to preserve a woman's life or physical health, whereas the regulations also permitted Medicaid abortion coverage when the procedure was needed to protect a woman's mental health.

Specifically, the measure defines an abortion as medically necessary if the pregnancy poses "serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman," including the risk of death, complications that could impair a major bodily function or one of 21 specified conditions, physical disorders or injuries.

PPGNW previously challenged the regulations but amended the lawsuit in May to incorporate the new state law (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/9).