Judge John Suddock heard oral arguments Monday morning in a case that questions the validity of new state regulations regarding what defines a "medically necessary" abortion under Medicaid.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services last Wednesday, claiming the new regulations are too narrow and restrictive.
The regulations went into effect on Sunday, Feb. 2. Planned Parenthood requested a temporary restraining order for the regulation not to go into effect, pending further court proceedings.
The change includes a form that asks physicians if an abortion was necessary because the pregnancy was an act of rape or incest.
The form also has an option for a doctor to verify that an abortion was necessary because the pregnancy could endanger the woman's life or was necessary to avoid risk to a woman's health due to "impairment of a major bodily function.”
Planned Parenthood claims the criteria listed on the form could be harmful to low-income women.
"As a result, some women will be forced to carry a pregnancy that will be detrimental to their health and others will delay obtaining care that they need, exposing them to increased health risks," said Janet Crepps, an attorney for Planned Parenthood who participated in the oral arguments over the phone.
However, the state argues that the criteria on the form do not replace a physician's judgment, arguing that a doctor will ultimately define what is medically necessary.
"It's not the department's judgment as to what constitutes medically necessary," said Chief Asst. Attorney General Stacie Kraly. "It again defers back to the doctor to determine which of these conditions is met, which of these conditions has been identified, and therefore which of these conditions constitutes a medically necessary abortion."
Crepps said the state's interpretation does not align with the actual language in the regulation and is not constitutionally valid. But Kraly argued that the form simply requires the doctor performing an abortion to fill out additional documentation and should not affect a doctor's judgment on whether the abortion is medically necessary.
Judge Suddock said he expected to make a decision on the temporary block soon. DHSS Commissioner William Streur said Monday afternoon he expected a decision on the temporary restraining order by Tuesday.