Alaska Medicaid Abortion Restrictions Blocked Until Trial

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Alaska Medicaid Abortion Restrictions Blocked Until Trial

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A new rule designed to restrict access to abortion care for Medicaid recipients won't go into effect before a trial challenging the constitutionality of the rule takes place.

On Friday, an Alaska Superior Court extended a temporary restraining order temporarily blocking a new regulation that is designed to severely restrict abortion access for low-income women in the state.

The regulation at issue seeks to circumvent a 2001 decision by the Alaska Supreme Court that the state Medicaid program must cover abortions determined by a physician to be medically necessary by redefining those conditions that would qualify as “medically necessary.” Shortly after the regulation was passed, reproductive rights advocates sued, arguing that the new rule unconstitutionally precludes all but the most severely ill women from qualifying for coverage. That means many otherwise eligible women will not be covered by Medicaid for abortion services, in violation of Alaska’s constitution. Earlier this month, Judge John Suddock blocked the regulation from taking effect. Friday’s order extends that temporary restraining order until at least late April, when a trial on the constitutionality of the regulation will take place.

“This decision ensures that Alaskan women facing difficult economic circumstances will not have crucial insurance coverage taken away if they need to end a pregnancy,” Janet Crepps, senior counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “The Alaska state constitution protects women against discrimination in the provision of insurance coverage for the full range of reproductive health care, and we will continue to defend this right against those who seek to take it away.”

The trial on the merits of the law is scheduled to take place April 29 through May 2.

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