FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 14, 2014
Unconstitutional Bill to Block Abortion Access for Low-Income Women Passed by Both Houses, On to Governor’s Desk
Action Comes After Weeks of Anti-Women’s Health Comments from Legislators
Alaska – On April 13, the State House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 49, a severe and unconstitutional restriction designed to block abortion access for low-income Alaskan women. The legislation is virtually identical to Governor Parnell and Lt. Governor Treadwell’s recent administrative rule currently enjoined and under legal challenge in Alaska Superior Court. The next day, on April 14, the State Senate concurred with the House’s version and sent the legislation to Governor Parnell’s desk to be signed into law or vetoed.
An earlier version of SB 49 contained an amendment for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program that was later stripped out by the House Finance Committee and agreed to by the full bodies of both Houses.
“SB 49 is a blatant attempt to put politicians between low-income women and access to abortion, and by removing the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, the legislature has made it clear that their only interest is restricting women’s pregnancy decisions – not promoting women’s health or reducing unintended pregnancies,” said Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager.
“It’s truly puzzling that politicians, including Governor Sean Parnell and Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, think that they should be making the personal medical decisions of Alaskan women. In reality, these decisions must be made between a woman and her doctor. Parnell, Treadwell, and the legislators who voted for SB 49 are politicians with no grasp on the issues facing women in Alaska. We urge the Governor to do the right thing and veto this bill.”
The Alaska Medicaid Women’s Health Program, if enacted, would be 90% federally paid and would eventually result in net savings to the state of $8.9 million per year. In its first year alone, the program would provide family planning services to roughly 11,725 women who currently do not have access through Medicaid, and prevent 555 abortions.
Passage of SB 49 is just the next installment in the parade of recent anti-women’s health actions and comments over the first part of 2014. In case you missed it:
- Pete Kelly Proposed Putting Pregnancy Tests in Bar Bathrooms. On March 20, Senator Pete Kelly proposed that the state “flood” bathrooms in bars with publicly funded pregnancy tests in ‘plastic bowls.’ He said this way women will “act responsibly.” Even worse, he’s against birth control access because “birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.” [Anchorage Daily News, 3/20/14]
- Fred Dyson Told Women to Save Money for Birth Control by Not Buying Coffee. In March, Senator Fred Dyson inexplicably and incorrectly argued that women in Alaska have no issues with birth control access. As a result, he said that the state shouldn’t expand birth control coverage for low-income women. He even advised some of Alaska’s poorest women to save money for birth control by not buying “four to five lattes” each month. In reality, many women are struggling to feed their families, and sometimes the money for birth control just isn’t there. That’s why women’s health advocates have been asking politicians for years to implement the Medicaid Women’s Health Program to fund additional low-income birth control access. [Anchorage Daily News, 3/7/14]
- Gabrielle LeDoux Said Access is So Good in Alaska That Putting Birth Control in Drinking Water is Only Way to Improve. On April 10, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux claimed that there were no issues with birth control access in Alaska. She said, “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.” [Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 4/10/14]
- Governor Parnell, Lt. Gov Treadwell, and Legislators Push Unconstitutional and Heavily Restrictive Measure to Block Abortion Access for Low-Income Women. In January, Governor Sean Parnell and Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell certified a Department of Health and Social Services rule to essentially block abortion access for low-income women in Alaska. The measure is a clear constitutional violation and currently enjoined in court, but that hasn’t stopped the legislature from considering identical legislation in the form of SB 49. In late February, the House Finance Committee passed the harmful bill. [Alaska Dispatch, 1/7/14; AP, 2/4/14; Anchorage Daily News, 2/27/14]
- House Finance Committee Removed Medicaid Women’s Health Program Without Hearing Any Testimony. In the process of considering SB 49, the House Finance Committee eliminated a productive amendment to establish the Medicaid Women’s Health Program in Alaska – before hearing a single second of testimony. The program would be 90% federally funded and would save the state $7.3 million over the first two years. It would reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions in Alaska while helping women achieve economic security. [Anchorage Daily News, 2/25/14]
Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest (PPVNW) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization educating Alaskans and policy-makers about reproductive health issues. PPVNW lobbies and educates to advance Planned Parenthood’s mission and also engages in limited electoral activities.