- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The state of Alaska is eliminating a requirement that two doctors weigh in when a woman wants an abortion after the first trimester.

It is also scrapping a rule requiring that blood and an operating room “appropriately staffed and equipped for major surgery” be “immediately available” for abortions after the first trimester.

The changes, adopted by the state medical board, were prodded by a lawsuit from abortion-rights advocates.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands sued the state in November, arguing that existing rules restrict women’s access to second-trimester abortions and are unconstitutional. The challenged regulations dated to the 1970s.

The organization also cited as problematic a failure by the state health department to establish criteria for facilities, such as outpatient clinics, that wish to provide second-trimester abortions. That issue is separate from the state medical board’s actions.

The lawsuit has been on hold pending final action by the medical board. Katie Rogers, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, said by email that the organization had no immediate comment on the rules, which take effect July 19.

The medical board has cast the changes, in part, as an effort to modernize the rules.

The changes address two provisions challenged by Planned Parenthood as outdated and unnecessary, relating to consultations and requirements for abortions after the first trimester.

The board repealed a requirement that a doctor consult with another doctor before performing an abortion after the 12th week of gestation.

The rule regarding the availability of blood and an operating room was replaced with a provision stating that, from the time a fetus becomes viable, an abortion may only be performed at a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. A doctor would make the determination on viability.

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