Alaska Legislature Hears Bill to Stop Taxpayer-Funded Abortions

State   |   Joel Davidson   |   Mar 5, 2013   |   6:32PM   |   Juneau, AK

A public hearing was set held today on a bill in the Alaska State Senate that aims to prohibit the state from using public funds to pay for abortions deemed “elective” and not “medically necessary” to preserve the life or physical health of the mother.

Introduced by Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, Senate Bill 49 would prohibit the state from paying for abortions unless a physician determines that the procedure is necessary in order to “avoid a threat of serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman.” The bill also permits state-funded abortions if pregnancies are “the result of rape or incest” so long as these crimes are “promptly reported to law enforcement or public health officials.”

Payment may not be made for “elective abortion,” the measure adds.

In clarifying the definition of a “medically necessary” abortion, the bill states that the condition is met when there is a “serious risk to the pregnant woman of death; or impairment of a major bodily function.”


The bill is the first piece of abortion-related legislation to be introduced in the current legislative session, which includes a new and largely pro-life senate majority.

The bill immediately garnered support from five co-sponsors including Senators Donny Olson, Pete Kelly, Fred Dyson, Peter Micciche, Mike Dunleavy, and Cathy Giessel.

As the primary sponsor of the bill Coghill told the Associated Press that he is interested in this issue “because not only is it a state budget issue, but it really now becomes an issue of when do you actually force somebody from the public to pay for somebody else’s abortion if it’s truly elective,” he said.

Coghill is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would be the first legislative body to grant a public hearing for the bill.


Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, a local affiliate of the largest abortion provider in the United States, issued an email after SB 49 was introduced, condemning the bill as an attempt at “having politicians, not doctors, determine what’s medically necessary.”

“Abortion is a fundamental right in Alaska, as stated in our Constitution,” the email claimed.

In a separate statement, posted on the Planned Parenthood website, the group noted that in 1993 the state “agreed with Planned Parenthood that a physician could use his or her professional judgment to determine if an abortion was medically necessary and could therefore be covered by Medicaid.”


Prior to 2001 Alaska was only required to pay for abortions where the life of the mother was endangered or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, consistent with federal law.

Then in 2001, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that Alaska must use state funds to pay for all “medically necessary” abortions even if the federal government would not. As a result, for the last 12 years, Alaska has paid for all abortions requested by abortion doctors without ever defining the term “medically necessary.”

Writing in a February opinion piece for the Catholic Anchor, longtime Anchorage attorney Bob Flint said this has resulted in a situation where the state “rubber stamps and pays an abortionist’s bill, no questions asked.”



In December, Governor Sean Parnell’s administration issued a new regulation stating that in order for an abortion provider to be eligible to receive Medicaid funds for an abortion, they must provide an invoice that includes a certificate saying the abortion was “medically necessary” to preserve the health of the woman. Pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, however, did not challenge the regulation and it did not specifically define “medically necessary.”

Flint’s opinion piece for the Catholic Anchor noted that such a regulation “is useless” because abortion doctors “will continue to maintain the absurd position that all abortions are ‘medically necessary,’” he wrote, “even those performed for economic and psychological reasons, or no reason except personal preference.”

According the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, over the past three years alone, the state has paid for a total of 2,061 abortions at a public cost of about $726,000.

To learn more about Senate Bill 49 click here.

To contact a state senator click here. Note: Joel Davidson is the editor of the Catholic Anchor, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska. This article originally appeared there and is reprinted with permission.