Divided House committee approves abortion bill
|By Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
A different version of the measure, Senate Bill 49, already passed the
The committee earlier this week took out the one element that Democrats and some Republicans liked: an expanded family planning program that some said would reduce abortions and unwanted pregnancies.
Sponsors say the measure doesn't restrict abortions but rather was an attempt to define which ones the state would pay for through the
All three Democrats on the committee including one who is aligned with the
Austerman, the other committee co-chairman, said he's always been pro-choice.
"While I fully acknowledge the efforts of the sponsors of this bill to define what is going on, and I fully recognize that today this is not a debate about pro-choice, my concern is and always has been efforts by pro-life to cumulatively move towards their goal," Austerman said. That's problematic, he said.
Holmes, a Democrat-turned-Republican last year, said she was disappointed the committee took out the family planning element, which would have allowed single men and women who otherwise didn't qualify for the
As to the bill itself, "I understand we're not talking about the basic idea of pro-life, pro-choice here," Holmes said. "We're talking about funding. This is the finance committee. We're talking about who pays and what services."
But the committee didn't hear detailed testimony about the medical conditions that would certify an abortion as necessary, she said. The list of 21 conditions, plus a blanket category for other physical disorder or illness, is precise and technical: renal disease that requires dialysis treatment, eclampsia, pulmonary hypertension, severe congenital or acquired heart disease, class IV.
"I don't really know what all this stuff in here is and isn't. I don't know if we hit the nail on the head," Holmes said. She said she wasn't comfortable telling a doctor "this is the right list."
Neuman, a pro-life conservative, said he researched the medical terms, asking his wife as well as doctors.
"I tried to find out what they mean as best as I could," he said. Maybe the measure will save lives and maybe not, he said.
"I do support this bill. I think it is necessary that we do have some descriptive language in our statutes," Neuman said.
Costello and some of the other bill supporters said
"Adoption is one outcome of an unwanted pregnancy," Costello said. "I was adopted. My brother was adopted."
Wilson at an earlier hearing pushed for information on how the health insurance system for state employees determines abortion coverage.
Of seven insurance claims for abortions in 2010, six were denied and one was reviewed and determined to have been a miscarriage, not an abortion, Barnhill said at Tuesday's hearing.
Wilson said Thursday she thought
"I'm still concerned that we're going down a trail in which we are going to get sued," she said. But others said the detailed list in the bill was a better approach.
Gara and Guttenberg tried Thursday to reinsert the family planning element. The original bill by Sen.
Stoltze ruled the Democrats out of order since the committee stripped out family planning on Tuesday when it took up a substitute bill.
"You're guaranteeing more abortions, not less," Guttenberg said.
The committee meeting took a turn when Stoltze allowed Coghill to testify after the legislators began debating the measure. Guttenberg questioned that. Stoltze said he wanted the senator to relay information about how the bill related to mental illness.
Coghill said the
Coghill says he simply is trying to stop the state from paying for elective abortions.
"Next, a vote of the full House," his office tweeted.
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