ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The State Department of Health and Social Services is proposing changes to regulations of abortion payment conditions.
The department is hearing public input on the issue until July 30th.
Current code states that in order for an abortion to receive funding under Medicaid, an abortion must be "certified by a physician as medically necessary to prevent the death or disability of the woman, or to ameliorate a condition harmful to the woman's physical or psychological health."
The proposed change would add a new section to the law that reads, in part, "the life of the mother would otherwise be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; procedure is medically necessary because the health of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy." The new language is what Rep. Wes Keller (R-Wasilla), chair of the house Health and Social Services Committee, calls a clarification to the existing law.
"It would very much precisely define terms that are now very fuzzy," said Keller. He says the proposed changes to regulations would help define "medically necessary" and put in place clear standards of what abortions the state will shell out funding for.
"I think less abortions would be paid for by the state and that is the issue. It's not womens' rights, it's not the value of abortions, it's whether or not public money should be spent," said Keller.
But opponents of the proposal say the new language is "broad" and "vague" and leaves uncertainty about how it might affect low-income women.
"Best-case scenario: it doesn't mean anything and women are able to access services as they always have. Worst-case scenario: it's the first step in narrowing the definition," says Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Clover Simon.
The proposed changes would also require medical providers to fill out a special certificate requesting funds for abortion.
"This is an added step, another burden to providers, that would then have them be required to file a separate piece of paper to the department, telling them why the abortion was medically necessary," says Simon, who says a woman's sensitive medical information should not have to be detailed in a form that is then sent to DHSS.
After the public comment period, the Department of Law will perform a final review and approve or disapprove the proposed regulations.