PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF THE GREAT NORTHWEST AND THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
Anchorage, AK – Today, the Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law and Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) regulation that would have severely limited Medicaid coverage of abortions for low-income women. The decision in Planned Parenthood v. Streur found that the statute and regulation violated the equal protection guarantees of the Alaska Constitution by creating criteria for Medicaid coverage of abortions not imposed on any other service covered by Medicaid.
“Every Alaskan woman, regardless of income, should be able to make the pregnancy decision that’s best for herself and her family,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI). “We applaud the superior court for striking down these cruel restrictions on women’s health and rights that violate the Alaska constitution.”
In 2013, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest along with the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court against the state Department of Health and Social Services, alleging that the state’s regulation restricting Medicaid abortions puts a burden on pregnant low-income women who already have the least access to health care in our state. The regulation was temporarily blocked in February 2014. Shortly thereafter, in 2014, the Alaska legislature passed a statute defining a “medically necessary abortion” even more narrowly, and a challenge to the statute was added to the litigation.
Despite constitutional protections for abortion coverage, politicians in Alaska have a long history of attempting to improperly restrict Medicaid coverage of abortion, including SB 49. Today’s decision will ensure that low-income women will continue to have access to abortion services in the state when their physician determines they are medically indicated.
“For far too long, politicians in Alaska have tried to sidestep constitutional protections that bar restricting access to abortion coverage,” said Joshua A. Decker, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. “Today’s ruling upholds those constitutional safeguards and makes clear that a woman’s health shouldn’t have to suffer simply because she is poor.”
“All women deserve access to safe and legal abortion, regardless of income or economic status,” said Janet Crepps, Senior Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s ruling respects over a decade of state Supreme Court precedent and ensures Alaska women covered by Medicaid are not unfairly singled out simply because of their decision to end a pregnancy.”
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands is represented by its Chief Legal Officer, Laura Einstein, along with attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights; the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Alaska counsel Susan Orlansky.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands is the region's leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate. We believe everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved. The organization operates 28 health centers in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, and Western Washington and provides medical services and sexuality education for thousands of women, men, and teenagers each year. Planned Parenthood is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and relies heavily on charitable donations to ensure our patients' ability to determine their own destinies and receive the health care they need.
For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. Whether it’s achieving full equality for the LGBT community, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, ending mass incarceration, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach. With more than a million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., for the principle that every individual’s rights must be protected equally under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.
Since 1992, the Center for Reproductive Rights has boldly used legal and human rights tools to create a world where every woman participates with full dignity as an equal member of society. We are the only global legal advocacy organization dedicated to reproductive rights, with expertise in both U.S. constitutional and international human rights law. Our groundbreaking cases before national courts, United Nations committees, and regional human rights bodies have expanded access to reproductive healthcare, including birth control, safe abortion, prenatal and obstetric care, and unbiased information. We influence the law outside the courtroom as well, documenting abuses, working with policymakers to promote progressive measures, and fostering legal scholarship and teaching on reproductive health and human rights.
CONTACT: Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager, (907) 841-0092;
Katie Rogers, Public Relations Manager, (206) 328-7705
August 27, 2015