Abortion Funding Battles Take Place in Iowa, Alaska

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 3, 2012   |   6:46PM   |   Washington, DC

Abortion funding battles are currently taking place in two states — Iowa and Alaska — where lawmakers are looking to limit taxpayer financing of abortions.

In Iowa,pro-abortion groups have filed challenges to efforts by 41 Republican legislators seeking emergency government rules preventing funding of abortions in cases of rape or incest. As one newspaper reports:

The petition brought by the GOP members of the Iowa House contends that rules allowing for abortions paid by Medicaid for fetuses that are physically or mentally deformed or those conceived in cases of rape or incest are illegal and should be rescinded. The state has until Aug. 10 to respond to the request for emergency rulemaking.

The objections filed by officials with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa urge the state Department of Human Services to reject the petition, which they say demands that women qualified for Medicaid be denied reimbursement for abortions resulting from rape, incest, or a devastating fetal health diagnosis.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has released proposed changes to how abortions are paid for in that state.The proposed changes modify the conditions that qualify an abortion procedure for federal reimbursement. The new language reads that a woman can be reimbursed if, “the mother is endangered by the pregnancy.”

The changes have raised alarm among pro-abortion groups Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Clover Simon has expressed concern over the vague language of the law and told one news outlet: “Best-case scenario: it doesn’t mean anything and women are able to access services as they always have. Worst-case scenario: it’s the first step in narrowing the definition.”

The Alaska Dispatch has more information:

The department will take public comments on the new regulation until July 30.

HSS is limited to what it can say while going through the public comment process. But in a written statement, Kimberli Poppe-Smart, HSS’s deputy commissioner, said that the change was necessary to “provide clarifications that would improve provider submission of the required form to avoid payment errors.”

She said that the HSS did not have a way to verify that abortions paid for by the state or federal government were meeting criteria for funding laid out by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Medicaid is a joint state-federally funded program that provides health insurance to low income and disabled adults. About 38 percent of all abortions performed in year 2011 — or 623 abortions — were paid through Medicaid, according to the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics.

If the federal government is asked to pick up the cost, the abortion provider must certify that the abortion was performed because of rape, incest, or because the life of the mother is at risk. At various points in history, the state government has tried to impose those same standards on the state.

In 2001, however, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that although the the feds can impose such standards, the state cannot “selectively deny necessary care to eligible women merely because the threat to their health arises from pregnancy.”