The federal Hyde Amendment bans Medicaid coverage of most abortions, leaving low-income women without access to abortion care unless the state they live in provides its own coverage. In the Northwest, Alaska, Montana, Oregon, and Washington all provide Medicaid funding for abortion care. Recently, however, Alaska’s policies have come under siege from anti-choice politicians.
In 2013, the Alaska Department of Health adopted a regulation so restrictive that it would prevent most low-income women in Alaska seeking medically necessary abortion services from receiving Medicaid coverage. The regulation restricts the definition of “medically necessary” to situations in which the woman faces a serious threat of impairment of a major bodily function, and includes a prescribed list of what those threats may be.
Our allies at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging that the regulation discriminates against pregnant low-income women who already have the least access to health care. This case is one of broad impact: of the abortions performed in Alaska by Planned Parenthood, a third of these abortions are for patients on Medicaid.
We stand with our allies at Planned Parenthood – and with Alaskan women. We recently filed a “friend of the court” brief in this case, emphasizing the barriers the statute places on low-income women. Our brief, written with our co-counsel, Jeff Feldman at the Summit Law Group, focuses on the law’s burden on those experiencing domestic violence and reproductive coercion, who face an increased risk of violence during and after pregnancy. For many women in this situation, access to abortion care is necessary to protect their health and, in some instances, their lives.
Survivors of domestic violence who are struggling for their lives – while living in poverty – do not need any additional barriers to getting the health care they need. We’re working to ensure that state policies promote health and safety, not undermine it.