If abortions are elective, state shouldn’t be responsible

by Jim Minnery/Alaska Family Council

President Harry Truman once said, “If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em.” Language really does matter, and Alaskans need to understand the convoluted game Planned Parenthood has been playing with your money regarding taxpayer-funded abortions.

Although on very shaky legal ground, to date, the courts have said abortion is a protected right. But just because it is a right of choice doesn’t mean the state is obligated to subsidize that choice. Why is Alaska paying for elective abortions?

Medicaid is a cooperative endeavor in which the federal government gives funding to participating states to aid them in providing necessary medical care to needy persons. By federal law, to receive federal Medicaid funds Alaska must pay for certain medical care, including childbirth. The “Hyde Amendment” limits federal Medicaid funds to paying only for abortions that are necessary to save a woman’s life, or to end a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.

The U.S. Supreme Court long ago ruled that the federal Constitution does not require a state to pay for elective abortions. The court also ruled that the “Hyde Amendment” does not violate the U.S. Constitution, not even when a woman’s abortion is medically necessary. The court’s rationale was that the constitutional right of choice does not include entitlement to the money needed to pay for the choice. Although the state may not place undue obstacles in a woman’s path to abortion, it need not remove those obstacles it did not create. The obstacle between an indigent woman and her desired abortion is her own indigency, something the state did not create.

But what is happening in Alaska? Cue the Alaska Supreme Court. In 2001, in a case filed by Planned Parenthood, the Alaska court decided that because the state uses matching Medicaid money to pay for childbirth, the Alaska Constitution requires the state to also pay for “medically necessary” abortions. According to the opinion written by Justice Dana Fabe, if the state grants “needed health care to some Medicaid-eligible Alaskans,” then it may not deny care to others “based on criteria entirely unrelated to the Medicaid program’s purpose of granting uniform high quality medical care to all needy persons of th[e] state.” But, the court said, restrictions that limit state funding based on “neutral criteria” like “medical necessity, cost and feasibility,” are permissible.

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