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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU and Planned Parenthood Challenge Alaska Abortion Restrictions; Seek to Restore Funding for Poor Women EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE 4:30 p.m. February 10, 1993 ANCHORAGE -- Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union today asked an Alaska state court to stop the implementation of discriminatory regulations that prevent low-income women from exercising their fundamental right to choose abortion. The lawsuit, filed today in Alaska Superior Court on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Alaska and a coalition of women's rights advocates, challenges regulations issued by the state to severely restrict the circumstances under which poor women could obtain abortions. The new policy is a radical departure from Alaska's 22-year practice of funding all abortions for indigent women. The ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project and Planned Parenthood's Legal Action for Reproductive Rights are asking the court for a temporary restraining order to block the implementation of these regulations, scheduled to take effect on February 19, 1993. The abortion funding restriction violates the constitutional and statutory rights of women in Alaska and has no medical or fiscal justification, according to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood's court papers. For years this position has been supported by Alaska Attorneys General, who have issued advisory opinions declaring such restrictions unconstitutional. "In an attempt to make good on his political promises, anti-choice Gov. Walter J. Hickel is imposing his moral preference on the state's most vulnerable women," said Catherine Weiss, Litigation Director of the ACLU's national Reproductive Freedom Project. Planned Parenthood attorney Dara Klassel added that the Alaska funding restrictions are part of a disturbing national trend. "At a time when people think of reproductive rights as being increasingly secure, right-wing politicians are pushing state laws that would make abortions more difficult for less affluent women to obtain," Klassel said. "The right to choose should not depend on a paycheck." "Unless these regulations are enjoined, women's health will be jeopardized," said Joyce E. Bamberger, cooperating attorney for the Alaska Civil Liberties Union. The regulations attempt to distinguish "therapeutic" from "elective" abortions, and to deny funding for the latter. The Department estimates, however, that 40 percent of the women who have received funded abortions will no longer qualify under the new regulations and that more than half of those denied funding will have no choice but to carry to term. Meanwhile, government funded pre- and postnatal care and childbirth services will continue to be available in Alaska to women whose incomes are up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. "The coercive power of restricting funding for abortions will take a crippling toll on the women we serve," said Donna Hurdle, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Alaska. She cited the already high cost of abortions ($400-$700), and the travel expenses to get from remote locations to abortion providers. "Poor women from villages where economies are based on subsistence hunting and fishing will not be able to pay for abortions. Desperate women once again will turn to the back-alleys or risk dangerous self-abortions," Hurdle said. "By not trusting low-income women to make decisions based on their own life experiences, the government is dividing women along class lines," added Randall Burns, Executive Director of the Alaska Civil Liberties Union. The new regulations will allow for funding for abortions in cases of rape and incest or when a physician certifies that the procedure is medically necessary "to ameliorate a condition harmful to the woman's physical or psychological health" -- a standard the ACLU and Planned Parenthood contend is open to a wide array of interpretations that could unjustly penalize doctors for acting in their patients' best interests. "If the regulations are enforced, Alaska will abandon its long commitment to reproductive choice," said Burns, who noted Alaska legalized the right to choose in 1970, three years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade. ACLU and Planned Parenthood attorneys are representing Planned Parenthood of Alaska, National Organization for Women-Fairbanks Chapter, Fairbanks Coalition for Choice, Juneau Coalition for Pro-Choice, Mat-Su Coalition for Choice, Pro-Choice Voters-Ketchikan, and Sitkans for Choice. --end-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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