Alaska lawmakers get professional help to decide when abortion is medically necessary
Some Alaska legislators think they, not doctors, should be the ones to decide when an abortion is medically necessary. And they’ll be getting support Wednesday from a panel of national medical professionals who will help decide which conditions constitute a medically necessary abortion, and which do not.
The Alaska Supreme Court decided in 2001 that the state must pay for abortions for people in the Medicaid program if the procedure is “medically necessary,” but provided little guidance on how that term should be defined.
That gray area includes a debate over whether mental health issues can be considered among factors contributing to medical necessity for abortion.
Fervent abortion opponent Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said he fears that without a definition, women may be able to get abortions that are not medically necessary under Medicaid. To prevent that possibility, Coghill has sponsored Senate Bill 49, which he said will “prevent public funds from being used to pay for elective abortions.”
State data from 2011 show 632 Medicaid-funded abortions in Alaska, out of a total of 1,637.