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Alaska lawmakers pass bill restricting Medicaid payments for abortions

[JURIST] The Alaska State House of Representatives [official website] on Monday passed a bill that would restrict state Medicaid payments for abortions. The bill [materials] sets forth specific medical circumstances [APRN report] under which physicians may deem an abortion "medically necessary," thereby justifying Medicaid reimbursement. The bill defines an abortion as "medically necessary" if the pregnancy poses "serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman." Procedures falling outside those circumstances would not be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Critics reportedly argue that the measure will make it more difficult for low-income women to access abortions, while also resulting in expensive litigation. The bill is now set to go before the Alaska State Senate [official website].

Controversy continually surrounds reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] in Alaska. In January the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the Alaska Superior Court [official website] challenging a new regulation that seeks to prevent Medicaid from covering elective abortions. In October 2012 an Alaska Superior Court judge upheld a state law [JURIST report] that requires women under the age of 18 to notify their parents if they intend to get an abortion. Judge John Suddock held that the law was constitutional but struck down a provision that would have imposed civil liability on doctors who provide abortions without ensuring that parents have been notified.

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