Planned Parenthood in Alaska sues state official over new abortion regulation
By MARY KAUFFMAN
January 30, 2014
The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest in Alaska Superior Court challenging a new regulation that could severely restrict abortion access for low-income women. The plaintiffs sued the state health commissioner Wednesday over new regulations that prevent state Medicaid from covering elective abortions. Named as the defendant is Alaska Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Steuer & the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
The new regulations, set to go into effect on February 2nd, require abortion doctors who receive Medicaid payments to certify that a procedure is "medically necessary" to prevent serious risk to the woman's health, or that the patient is a victim of rape or incest. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the state from enforcing the regulations.
The lawsuit challenges the validity of a regulation recently adopted by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services that the plaintiffs say seeks to circumvent a 2001 decision by the Alaska Supreme Court that the state cannot discriminate in the provision of services under the Medicaid program, and must cover abortions determined to be medically necessary by a woman's physician. Instead, the plaintiffs say the regulation establishes criteria aimed at severely restricting the ability of low-income women to access medically needed abortion services. The plaintiffs say this restriction violates the Alaska Constitution and the Alaska Administrative Procedure Act.
“These Parnell Administration regulations are an unprecedented intrusion into the medical privacy of Alaska women who deserve the ability to make health care decisions with their doctor, not the Parnell Administration,” said Mike Wenstrup, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.
According to information provided by the Alaska Democratic Party, the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency has found that the regulations are likely unconstitutional.
Mead Treadwell claimed credit for the questionable regulations this week. After certifying the regulations as Lt. Governor, he told the Anchorage Chamber of commerce, “I was proud to sign those regulations.”
The Administration proposed “medically necessary” regulations after Senator Coghill’s legislation (SB 49) to accomplish the same goal was “bitterly opposed” and failed to pass the state legislature last year. Parnell’s new regulations force women and doctors to reveal highly personal medical information to government employees.
According to information provided by Zack Fields, Communications Director of the Alaska Democratic Party, in acknowledgment of his new regulations’ unpopularity, Parnell posted the regulations on an obscure state webpage. Neither he nor Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Steuer publicized the controversial new regulations even though they will have significant impacts on provision of health care in Alaska.
The regulations will go into effect on Sunday, February 2nd, and the plaintiffs say this will have immediate and irreversible consequences for Medicaid-eligible Alaskan women.
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