ANCHORAGE, AK – Today, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI) filed a lawsuit against the state of Alaska over a state law that prohibits qualified health care providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, from providing abortions. Alaska is one of many states that has this requirement which unjustly restricts patient access to abortion services in the medically underserved state.
The lawsuit challenges Alaska’s Advanced Practice Clinician (APC) ban that requires abortion care be performed solely by physicians, thus blocking qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs)—such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives—from doing so.
These outdated restrictions on abortion care--across a state that already faces a range of health care access issues, including physician shortages, travel restrictions due to state budget cuts, and lack of access in rural areas—puts pregnant people in Alaska in jeopardy.
“This additional burden to care is outdated and does nothing to keep Alaskans safe. This is about adding another step, or barrier to care that will have long-lasting impacts on patients,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of PPGNHI. “Many people in Alaska choose to get their health care from a range of health care providers, but this law singles out one low-risk medical procedure with no serious medical justification. A quarter of Alaska residents live in communities with fewer than 2,500 people and according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, people in nonmetropolitan areas are less likely to receive reproductive health care services. There is no question whether or not a trained APC can safely provide an abortion, it is about recognizing that this restriction is outdated, arbitrary, harmful to patients, and unnecessarily makes it harder for people to get a safe, legal abortion in Alaska.”
“The law is a blatant violation of Alaskans’ constitutional rights. And of course, like many other restrictions on abortion care, it disproportionately harms those who already face systemic barriers to health care, including people of color, people with low incomes, and people living in rural areas,” says Legal Voice Senior Attorney Kim Clark. “Health care regulations that are based in political ideology rather than medicine do nothing but undermine trust in the health care system, particularly among communities who, because of this nation’s long history of reproductive control and coercion, may be reluctant to seek care in the first place.”
Currently, APCs in Alaska provide many health care services of equal or greater complexity to abortions. Indeed, APCs can and do care for pregnant patients experiencing miscarriages using the same medications as those used for early abortion care. APCs go through extensive graduate training to be able to deliver that care in a high-quality, safe way.
In a recent Planned Parenthood poll, 73 percent of Alaska voters think access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is very important. A record-high 77 percent of Americans say they do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and there is no state in this country where banning abortion is popular.
This law significantly restricts patient access to abortion services in Alaska. Removing this medically unjustified restriction on APCs’ scope of practice would dramatically reduce delays and the associated medical, emotional, and financial harm that pregnant people in Alaska are experiencing as a result of the APC ban.
The lawsuit was filed in Alaska Superior Court and PPGNHI is represented by its Chief Legal Counsel, Hannah Brass Greer, along with attorneys from Legal Voice, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Stoel Rives LLP.