Alaska Lawmakers Consider Abortion Bills; Measures Are Unlikely To Advance

March 15, 2012 — Alaska lawmakers on Tuesday held a House hearing on the definition of "medically necessary" abortion care, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The hearing is unlikely to result in legislative changes, according to the Daily News.

The state's Supreme Court has held that Alaska must fund medically necessary abortion care if it funds other medically necessary services for residents with financial need. The state's budget last year included language banning the use of state funds for abortion care. William Streur, Alaska's health department commissioner, said his department has followed the Supreme Court ruling and allocated about $546,000 for abortion care last year.

House Health and Social Services Committee Chair Wes Keller (R), who called the hearing, is attempting to narrow the definition of "medically necessary" in a bill (HB 363) that would prohibit the use of any public funds for abortion care.

Streur noted that the state Supreme Court ruling trumps the Legislature's decisions. He asked the committee to avoid writing another ban, saying, "I ask you to not place us in an even more difficult situation by legislative prohibition to not provide that access" (Baird, Anchorage Daily News, 3/13).

Senate Ultrasound Bill Stalls

A measure (SB 191) introduced last month that would require Alaska women to receive abdominal ultrasounds prior to receiving abortion care has stalled and is not expected to advance before the end of the legislative session, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.

Although the bill will unlikely be heard in a committee, bill sponsor Sen. John Coghill (R) said he introduced it because it reflects his political beliefs. Coghill is part of a four-person Senate minority, which has not had the power to advance much legislation, according to the News-Miner (Buxton, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 3/13).