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Alaska State Medical Board weighs whether to loosen abortion regs

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The Alaska State Medical Board is weighing whether to loosen state regulation over late-term abortions. This comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed in November by Planned Parenthood, Alaska’s largest abortion chain. The lawsuit seeks to force Alaska to repeal certain regulations on second trimester abortions — those done after 13 weeks and six days.

In response, the State Medical Board issued proposed changes in February, which are now undergoing a public comment period that extends until March 24.

The proposed changes would eliminate the need for an abortion provider to get a second opinion from another doctor before performing a second trimester abortion. Additionally, abortionists would no longer be required to have access to an operating room equipped for major surgeries. Instead, abortions performed after a baby is viable would need to done in a hospital with neonatal care facilities. Abortionists also would no longer need to make a written record of a woman’s “physical and emotional” health prior to undergoing an abortion.

The Planned Parenthood lawsuit maintains that Alaska law overly burdens women seeking later-term abortions — procedures they claim are safe. Given that Planned Parenthood cannot comply with the current regulations, it is restricted from aborting babies after the second trimester. This leads to women to fly out of state to obtain late term abortions, they claim.

Planned Parenthood currently performs first-trimester surgical and chemical abortions at clinics in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Soldotna. Together these clinics account for more than 90 percent of the roughly 1,300 abortions performed annually in Alaska.

Despite Planned Parenthood’s claim that second trimester abortions are “performed safely in outpatient facilities,” numerous studies conclude that second trimester abortions account for a disproportionate amount of abortion-related morbidity and mortality and carry risks of infection, bleeding and damage to organs.

Abortions performed after 20 weeks, when not done by inducing premature labor, are most commonly performed by dilation and evacuation. These techniques involve crushing, dismemberment and removing a baby’s body from a woman’s uterus, even after the baby could potentially survive outside the mother. In some cases, late-term abortion involves a lethal injection into the unborn baby’s heart to ensure that the child is not pulled out alive or with the ability to survive.

The State Medical Board will take comments on its proposed changes until March 24. After the public comment period ends, the Board will either adopt the proposed regulation changes without further notice, or decide to take no action.  The language of the final regulation may be different from that of the proposed regulation.

The State Medical Board consists of five physicians, one physician assistant, and two public members. Board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

The board adopts regulations to carry out the laws governing the practice of medicine in Alaska.

Comments on the proposed regulations can be submitted in writing to Jun Maiquis, Regulations Specialist, Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing, P.O. Box 110806, Juneau, AK  99811-0806.  Additionally, the board will accept comments by facsimile at (907) 465-2974 and by email at RegulationsAndPublicComment@alaska.gov.  Comments may also be submitted through the Alaska Online Public Notice System. Comments must be received not later than 5 p.m. on March 24.

In addition to submitting public comments, Alaskans may send in written questions about the proposals to Jun Maiquis, Regulations Specialist, Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing, P.O. Box 110806, Juneau, AK  99811-0806 or email jun.maiquis@alaska.gov.  Questions must be received at least 10 days before the end of the public comment period.  The board will aggregate its response to similar questions and make the questions and responses available online.


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