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Alaska Appeals Ruling Against Law, Regulations on Medicaid Abortion Coverage

Alaska on Friday filed a notice of appeal with the state Supreme Court over a lower court ruling that struck down a state law and regulations limiting Medicaid coverage for abortion services, AP/KTOO Public Media reports (Bohrer, AP/KTOO Public Media, 11/7).


The law, signed last year, revised the state's definition of what constitutes a "medically necessary" abortion that is eligible for Medicaid coverage. The law defined an abortion as medically necessary if the pregnancy posed "serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman," including the risk of death, complications that could impair a major bodily function or one of 21 specified conditions, physical disorders or injuries.

The legislation was similar to the state regulations, issued in January 2014, that defined an abortion as medically necessary to preserve a woman's life or physical health and also when the procedure was necessary to protect a woman's mental health.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged the regulations but amended the lawsuit in May 2014 to incorporate the new state law. In July of last year, Superior Court Judge John Suddock blocked the state law while he considered PPGNW's lawsuit. In August of this year, Suddock struck down the law and regulations, ruling that both violated the state Constitution's equal protection clause (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/28).

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Jonathan Woodman, a senior assistant attorney general, said Alaska will argue on appeal that the state has the authority to set standards for a "medically necessary" abortion to ensure Medicaid only covers those that meet the state's definition of "medically necessary."

According to AP/KTOO Public Media, the state Supreme Court previously has ruled that the state must cover medically necessary abortions if it covers other medically necessary health care services. The state then proposed the regulations and law to "further define" what qualifies as a medically necessary abortion, AP/KTOO Public Media reports (AP/KTOO Public Media, 11/6).