Planned Parenthood Amends Alaska Lawsuit Over 'Medically Necessary' Abortion

May 9, 2014 — Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has amended a lawsuit in Alaska to incorporate a recently passed state law restricting abortion coverage in the state's Medicaid program, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

The lawsuit initially challenged state regulations redefining which abortions are considered "medically necessary," meaning that they are eligible for state Medicaid coverage. A court put the suit on hold because the state Legislature was considering a bill with similar requirements (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/8).

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) signed the legislation (SB 49) into law last month. The law is similar to the regulations but limits the term "medically necessary" to 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 law 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, such as coma, heart failure or diabetes. It also includes a blanket provision that covers other physical disorders or injuries (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/18).

PPGNW argues that the restrictions are unconstitutional, while supporters say that the state should not cover "elective" procedures, the AP/Post-Intelligencer reports (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/8).