Alaska appeals decision striking down further restrictions on abortion funding

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JUNEAU, Alaska — The state of Alaska is appealing a judge's decision that found a state law and regulation further defining what constitutes a medically necessary abortion for purposes of Medicaid funding to be unconstitutional.

Jonathan Woodman, a senior assistant attorney general, said by email that the appeal will argue that the state can establish standards to distinguish between elective and medically necessary abortions so that Medicaid pays only for those medically necessary.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest sued the state over the law and regulation, and Superior Court Judge John Suddock ruled in the group's favor in August. The state filed a notice of appeal with the Alaska Supreme Court on Friday.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Stuart Goering said it is routine to do this in situations where state laws are challenged.

The Alaska Supreme Court has previously held that the state must pay for medically necessary abortions if it pays for other procedures deemed medically necessary.

The regulation and law sought to further define what constitutes a medically necessary abortion.

In his ruling, Suddock said the law seeks to limit Medicaid funding to high-risk, high-hazard situations while failing to address serious but "less-than-catastrophic" health detriments. He also wrote that it would deny funding in cases involving fetal anomalies or women dealing with mental illness or addiction.

Jessica Cler, Alaska spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said the group was disappointed that the state was "defending a law that has such harsh impacts on women.

"Every woman in Alaska deserves the right to make the pregnancy decision that is best for her and her family," she said in a statement. "For far too long, politicians in Alaska have tried to sidestep women's constitutional rights. By appealing this decision, the state is compromising the health of low-income women."

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