- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Planned Parenthood is calling a bill that would restrict late-term abortions in Alaska legally and medically questionable.

The bill, from Republican Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, would ban abortions in cases where doctors deem the fetus to be viable outside the womb. It includes exceptions if the pregnancy resulted from sexual assault or incest or is medically necessary. But in those cases, it calls on the doctor to take steps that give the fetus the best chance to survive after being removed if those actions do not present “a serious risk to the life or physical health” of the woman.

Under the bill, the state Office of Children’s Services would be notified if “a parent” was unwilling or unable to provide care.

Coghill said during a hearing Wednesday that he was focusing on the issue of viability, defined in his bill as capable of surviving outside the womb with or without artificial aid.

“We value life very highly here in Alaska,” Coghill said.

A legislative attorney, Kate Glover, wrote in a memo that the bill’s definition of medically necessary is likely unconstitutional in light of a state court judge’s opinion last year. Superior Court Judge John Suddock ruled that a state law and regulations further defining what constitutes a medically necessary abortion for purposes of Medicaid funding are unconstitutional. The definition of medically necessary in Coghill’s bill is the same as that for a medically necessary abortion in the law that Suddock struck down. An appeal in the Medicaid funding case is pending.

Glover’s memo, dated last month, was in response to a question from Sen. Bert Stedman. Stedman chairs the Senate Health and Social Services Committee, which heard Coghill’s bill Wednesday.

In written comments, the political arm for Planned Parenthood in the region said the bill contains confusing terminology. Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii notes the bill’s references to an unborn child being removed from the womb alive. But it says that’s a delivery, not an abortion.

The group also raised concerns about cases involving serious fetal anomalies that cannot be detected earlier in pregnancy where it says an infant carried to term might live a short, painful life. It called the bill unworkable, unenforceable and likely unconstitutional.

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