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Alaska Health Department Still Mulling Proposed Abortion Coverage Regulations

Alaska Health Department Still Mulling Proposed Abortion Coverage Regulations

September 24, 2012 — The Alaska Health Department is still reviewing a proposal to further restrict funding for abortion care in health insurance programs for low-income state residents, the AP/Anchorage Daily News reports (AP/Anchorage Daily News, 9/20).

Under the proposed rule, the state would only cover abortion care through Medicaid or Denali KidCare -- joint state-federal health insurance programs -- if a provider certifies that the procedure is medically necessary. Current state law defines medically necessary abortions as those that address "a condition harmful to the woman's physical or psychological health." However, the proposal states that coverage would only apply if "the health of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy."

Sen. Hollis French (D) in a letter to Alaska's health commissioner said the proposed regulations would reinstate rules overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2001. A legal opinion requested by French found that the "medically necessary" standard would become narrower under the proposed regulation and would be "reasonably likely" to be found unconstitutional (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/31).

Alaska's health commissioner has said that the state health department did not intend to narrow the definition and that it would address whether to make wording changes after reviewing public comments (AP/Anchorage Daily News, 9/20).