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Senator Coghill Clarifies Bill Defining ‘Medically Necessary Abortion’

Sponsor Substitute for Senate Bill 49 puts legislation in line with Hyde Amendment

JUNEAU-Senator John Coghill, R-North Pole, introduced a sponsor substitute today to modify Senate Bill 49, which is aimed at defining what is considered a “medically necessary abortion” for the purpose of making payments under Medicaid.  The Sponsor Substitute removes the phrase “and the rape or incest was promptly reported to law enforcement or public health authorities.”

Senator Coghill says the change was needed because he intended for the bill to follow the language in the Hyde Amendment, which is the federal law defining how and when the U.S. Government will pay for abortion. 

“I since learned the Hyde Amendment does not include that language.  We realized the discrepancy and we immediately filed the sponsor substitute to more accurately reflect federal law.” 

Senate Bill 49, which was created using recommendations and expert testimony from medical professionals, sets out to provide a neutral, but more specific definition of what is medically necessary.

“This legislation is a very narrowly focused bill putting into statute the answer to a constitutional question set out by the Supreme Court more than a decade ago,” said Senator Coghill.  “This is not about whether it is appropriate to have an abortion.  This is about clarifying under which circumstances it is appropriate for the people of Alaska to pay for an abortion.”

Back in 2001, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled the State was only required to pay for abortions for Medicaid participants if those abortions were deemed ‘medically necessary’ by a medical professional.  The Alaska Supreme Court, at the time, listed some of the ‘medically necessary’ conditions when explaining the decision, but the legal definitions were left to the Legislature.

“We asked doctors and lawyers what they would recommend and what would follow the spirit of the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Senator John Coghill.  “Senate Bill 49 gets that definition as clean and clear as it can be so that we can answer that constitutional question in a way that’s fair for all Alaskans.”

Senate Bill 49 now heads to the Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees for further consideration.

For more information, please contact Rynnieva Moss in Senator Coghill’s office at 907-465-3719.

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