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House passes amendment to exempt state Medicaid program from covering abortions | Juneau Empire

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The Alaska House of Representatives passed an amendment to the state’s spending bill that would exempt Alaska’s Medicaid program from covering abortions. Lawmakers have voted for similar amendments in the past, which have been found unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court.

House members spent most of the day in floor session Wednesday, working through the 87 amendments submitted to the state’s budget bill. By 5 p.m. Wednesday, lawmakers had worked through 54 amendments over two days, but passed only two. One amendment passed came from gubernatorial candidate Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, and exempts the state’s Medicaid program from paying for abortions.

Another amendment to pass on the floor was from Rep. Josiah Patkotak, I-Utqiagvik, for $50,000 for maintenance of a winter ice road in his district.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, noted that the Alaska Supreme Court had found abortion to be protected under the state’s right to privacy laws, and the state has lost several court cases for attempts to deny access to abortion.

“The court said that reproductive choice will be treated like other women’s health issues,” Josephson said on the floor. “That is the state of the law.”

But several members of the Republican minority who spoke in favor of the amendment said the funding should be removed regardless of what the courts say.

“If we have to run it through the courts let’s run it through the courts, maybe we’ll get a different outcome,” said Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake. “The right to privacy extends to the pre-born.”

Several lawmakers mentioned a belief that Roe v. Wade would be overturned in the near future. Because the Alaska Supreme Court has found the state constitution’s right to privacy protects the right to abortion, some anti-abortion groups are advocating for a constitutional convention to address the issue.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage was the lone absence Wednesday, giving the 19-member Republican minority a slight advantage in House where the Majority Coalition has only 21 members.

Lawmakers attempted a re-vote on an amendment to pay statutory Permanent Fund Dividends of about $4,200, but failed by the same vote count as the previous day when Rep. David Nelson, R-Anchorage, was the only absence.

Amendments taken up but not passed included a proposal to remove $2 million for pre-K funding, to remove a $1 billion transfer of state funds to the principal account of the Alaska Permanent Fund and to remove funding for public broadcasting.

House members worked into the evening Wednesday, and House Majority Coalition spokesperson Joe Plesha previously told the Empire floor sessions will take up most of the schedule until the budget is passed.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.




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