Judge grants restraining order in Alaska Medicaid abortion restrictions
February 06, 2014
Alaska Superior Court Judge Suddock ordered the state not to put the rule into effect pending the outcome of a hearing over a request to permanently block it sought by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.
“Planned Parenthood raises serious issues going to the merits of the validity of the regulation,” Suddock said in an order Tuesday. Patients “may be forced to delay an abortion while they raise funds, until it becomes riskier; or they may be forced to carry to term against their medical and practical best interests.”
"I'm not surprised the courts have stopped the new regulations,” said Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage). “The court order affirms our position that the regulations are unconstitutional. It's time for us to focus our efforts on preventing unintended pregnancies by increasing our family planning efforts. These are cost effective solutions that work for Alaska and help accomplish the shared goal of Alaska policymakers and the public to reduce the number of abortions in Alaska."
“These regulations are simply an effort to come between a woman and her healthcare provider, forcing unnecessary disclosure of personal information to public officials,” said Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage).
Planned Parenthood announced over a week ago they were suing to block intrusive regulations that would require women to report personal medical conditions to the government. Unilaterally instated by the Parnell Administration earlier this month, despite being rejected by the Alaska legislature last year, the regulations would place further restrictions on abortion procedures deemed medically necessary.
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.
The regulations went into effect over the weekend but are suspended until the judge lifts the temporary restraining order. Set to go into effect on February 2nd, the new regulation would have required 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.
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