Board, prompted by suit, proposes new abortion rules

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Tuesday, February 21, 2017 10:12pm
  • News

JUNEAU — The Alaska State Medical Board has proposed new regulations prompted by a lawsuit from abortion-rights advocates who argue that existing rules restrict second-trimester abortions.

The proposals, among other things, would repeal a requirement that a physician consult with another doctor before performing an abortion after the 12th week of gestation.

They also state that from the point a fetus is considered viable, an abortion can only be done at a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. That would replace an existing rule requiring that blood and an operating room staffed and equipped for major surgery must be immediately available for abortions performed during the second or third trimesters.

The board realized through the lawsuit that some existing rules were more than 30 years old and perhaps due for review, board executive administrator Debora Stovern said Tuesday.

The proposed changes, currently out for public comment, are aimed at modernizing the rules, she said.

“The intent is public safety and having appropriate regulations to that end,” she said.

The lawsuit, brought by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, is on hold pending final action by the board on its rules.

Katie Rogers, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said by email that her organization is reviewing the proposed changes and likely will submit comments. She said the group won’t make final decisions about the case until any rules changes are final.

Planned Parenthood, in its lawsuit, states that while some women seek second-trimester abortions in Alaska, the organization does not provide them in the state due to restrictions that it argues are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit says the consultation provisions and rules requiring the availability of blood and an operating room for major surgery are unnecessary.

It also cites a decades-old state legal opinion finding the state health department is responsible for approving facilities where abortions are performed beyond the first trimester. That issue is separate from the State Medical Board’s actions.

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