(REVISED 03.21.2018) In 2001, the Alaska Supreme Court held that
withholding state Medicaid coverage for abortions while covering all other
medically necessary care, including for pregnant women, violated the equal
protection clause of the Alaska Constitution.
The Court held the state must fund all medically necessary abortions for
Medicaid recipients. In 2013, the Alaska
Department of Health attempted to circumvent this ruling by adopting a
regulation so restrictive that it would prevent most low-income women in Alaska
seeking medically necessary abortion services from receiving Medicaid coverage.
The statute and regulation infringe upon
physicians’ medical judgment and ethical obligations by limiting coverage
for medically necessary abortions to situations in which the woman faces a
serious threat of impairment of a major bodily function. For example, a woman
with renal disease would only be eligible for coverage if her condition were so
severe that she required dialysis treatment.
medical assistance funding forces low-income women either to delay medically
necessary abortions while they raise funds, increasing risks to their health,
or to carry a pregnancy to term despite their health conditions.
When abortion was first legalized in 1973,
federal funds were available to low-income women seeking medically necessary
abortions. But since 1977, under the
“Hyde Amendment,” the U.S. Congress has eliminated federal funding for abortion
except when necessary to save the woman’s life or where the pregnancy results
from rape or incest. Seventeen states,
including Alaska, and the District of Columbia, provide broader coverage for
abortions through state Medicaid programs.
Plaintiff(s): Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: American Civil Liberties Union,
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Susan
Orlansky at Reeves Amodio, LLC, Tom Stenson (ACLU of Alaska)
Summary: In January 2014, the Center for Reproductive
Rights, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the ACLU,
challenged the regulation in Alaska Superior Court on behalf of Planned
Parenthood of the Great Northwest and its patients, and quickly obtained a
temporary injunction blocking the regulation.
Shortly thereafter, the Alaska legislature passed a statute adopting an
even more narrow definition of “medical necessity.” A challenge to the statute was added
to the case against the regulation. The
current lawsuit argues that Alaska’s statute and regulation violate the Alaska
Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and privacy. Because a first trimester abortion costs
between $650 and $900 in Alaska and may entail the additional costs of air
travel and lodging for women living far from clinics, the new Medicaid
regulation would make it difficult for many low-income women to access