The State of Alaska has adopted a new regulation requiring abortion practitioners to give greater clarity on why they think an abortion is “medically necessary.” Pro-life advocates have expressed hope that the regulation will result in fewer state-funded abortions, while increasing the demand for pro-life alternatives.
Under existing federal law, the Hyde Amendment stipulates that federal dollars can only fund abortions in cases of rape, incest or to preserve the mother’s life. If none of those conditions apply abortion practitioners in Alaska have been able to simply claim that an abortion was “medically necessary” and have general funds from the state pay for abortions of low-income women on Medicaid. The new regulation, certified by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Jan. 3, will bring an end to this practice starting Feb. 2.
DEFINING ‘MEDICALLY NECESSARY’
In 2001, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled the state was required to pay for abortions for Medicaid participants if those abortions were deemed “medically necessary.” In its ruling, however, the court left the door open for the state to legally define medical necessity.
With passage of the new regulation, abortion practitioners, rather than merely citing the term “medically necessary,” must instead submit a form that indicates one of 21 conditions defining what “medically necessary” means in each particular abortion they perform. According to the new regulation, the form must then be signed, dated and a copy submitted to the state Division of Health Care Services, while the original must be kept on file for the patient with all supporting documentation.
The regulation does not prohibit Alaskans from obtaining abortions but it does prohibit abortion practitioners from receiving state funded reimbursements for abortions that do not meet the legal definition of “medically necessary.”
With the change, abortion practitioners now need to affirm that the abortion was “to avoid a threat of serious risk to the physical health of the woman from continuation of her pregnancy due to the impairment of a major bodily function.” The new regulation also permits the state to fund abortions that are performed to avoid “another physical disorder, physical injury, physical illness, including a physical condition arising from the pregnancy, or a psychiatric disorder that places the woman in imminent danger of medical impairment of a major bodily function.”
PRO-ABORTION LAWMAKERS CRITICIZE CHANGE
The Alaska Democratic Party issued a statement on Jan. 7 criticizing the administration of Gov. Sean Parnell for allowing the new regulation to pass.
“Parnell’s new regulations are an unprecedented intrusion into Alaskans’ medical privacy,” said Mike Wenstrup, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “This assault on women’s rights is an affront to our Constitutional protection of privacy.”
Press Secretary for the House Democratic Caucus Mark Gnadt also issued a press release calling the regulation a “bureaucratic intrusion into women’s health decisions.” Representatives Geran Tarr, Beth Kerttula, Harriet Drummond and Senator Berta Gardner spoke out against the changes for “allowing government bureaucrats to determine which circumstances determine whether a woman’s abortion procedure is medically necessary, a determination previously left to health professionals,” the press release stated.
CHANGES AIM TO CURB ABUSE
In a September interview with the Catholic Anchor Heidi Navarro, the center director at the Anchorage Community Pregnancy Center said she believes the term “medically necessary” is “very vague” and far too freely applied.
The Community Pregnancy Center averages about 500 pregnancy tests a year, while helping women explore pregnancy options. Most women who visit the center are not in need of a “medically necessary” abortion to save their life or preserve their bodily health, Navarro explained. Rather a woman finds herself in a difficult situation.
Pam Albrecht, a long-time parishioner at Holy Family Cathedral and a pro-life activist for more than 40 years, has worked with women both considering abortion and recovering from abortion. She can’t recall encountering a woman who had a medical necessity for an abortion.
Albrecht noted, however, that there are rare cases when a pregnancy can become life threatening. But even in such a situation the Catholic Church continues to uphold the sanctity of human life.
According to church teaching, direct abortions are always wrong. However, the church does not oppose procedures which may result — indirectly — in the loss of the unborn child as a secondary effect.
Albrecht gave the example of a mother who is suffering from an ectopic pregnancy (a baby is developing in her fallopian tube, not the womb). In these cases a doctor may remove the fallopian tube as therapeutic treatment to prevent the mother’s death. The infant will not survive long after this, but the intention of the procedure and its action is to preserve the mother’s life, not to abort the child.
In the vast majority of cases, however, Albrecht noted that medical science can deal with almost any health condition encountered by the woman or child during pregnancy and childbirth.
Albrecht works with Project Rachel, an organization that aims to bring healing and reconciliation for women suffering guilt and loss after an abortion.
CLICK LIKE IF YOU’RE PRO-LIFE!
“The most common reason we encounter for abortion is inconvenience,” Albrecht said. She added that women often feel pressure from parents, boyfriends or even husbands.
The Guttmacher Institute, an organization that backs abortion rights, has done detailed surveys on abortion in the U.S. and found that the vast majority of abortions are sought for reasons other than medical necessity.
LifeNews.com 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.