On Monday, the Alaska state Legislature passed a bill that defines medically necessary abortion. The bill now heads to Gov. Sean Parnell’s office after the Senate voted to agree to strip family planning money from the bill. The vote was 13-7. Only one Republican, Sitka Sen. Bert Stedman, voted against the House version of the bill. Democrat Sen. Donny Olson, from Nome, voted for it with the rest of the Republicans.
The bill would only effect women whose abortions are paid for through Medicaid, which provides health care benefits to the poor.
The family planning money had been a source of contention and eyebrow-raising debate. Sen. Fred Dyson gave a speech on the floor in March, where he talked about doing research on condoms and concluded that women could access contraception in Alaska by having it air shipped to them. Republican Senator Pete Kelly said birth control is for women who don’t want to “behave responsibly.”
Most recently, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux said nobody in Alaska was without access to birth control. “Other than putting contraceptives in the drinking water, I mean we’ve done just about everything we can do as far as family planning services,” she said.
At stake was money for the Alaska Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which, if enacted, would be 90 percent federally funded, and according to Planned Parenthood, would eventually result in net savings to the state of $8.9 million per year.
Sen. John Coghill, a conservative from Fairbanks who has long been fighting to end abortion, said that he didn’t support the family planning money because that money would make its way to Planned Parenthood, which supports “population control” rather than family planning.
“(B)y removing the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, the House made it clear that their only interest is restricting women’s pregnancy decisions – not promoting women’s health or reducing unintended pregnancies,” Jessica Cler, Planned Parenthood Alaska Public Affairs Manager said.
Planned Parenthood sued earlier this year against similiar regulations enacted by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
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