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Alaska

Biased Counseling

Alaska law subjects women seeking abortion services to biased-counseling requirements. A woman may not obtain an abortion until she is advised of the medical implications and the possible emotional and physical effects of the procedure.  Alaska Admin. Code tit. 12, § 40.070.  Under a law passed in 2004, a woman may not obtain an abortion until after the attending physician, a member of the physician's staff who is a licensed health-care provider, or the referring physician has:  (1) informed the woman in private of the name of the physician who will provide the abortion and the probable gestational age of the fetus and (2) provided the required state-prepared materials or has described the nature and risks of undergoing the procedure. 

The 2004 law further provides that the state-prepared materials must be on the Internet and must:  (1) provide a geographically indexed, comprehensive list of names and telephone numbers of public and private agencies and services available to assist the woman with her reproductive choices throughout pregnancy including counseling services related to adoption, family planning, and abortion; (2) provide information concerning the eligibility of medical assistance benefits for prenatal care, childbirth, neonatal care, abortion services, and contraception; (3) describe the process by which a woman may obtain child support; (4) include objective and unbiased information approved by the State Medical Board that: (a) describes fetal development at two-week intervals from fertilization to full term, including links to photographs of the fetus at four-week intervals, and information on the possibility of survival; (b) describes abortion methods and the medical risks associated with each method and the physical and psychological effects of choosing abortion; (c) describes the medical risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth and the possible physical and psychological effects of carrying a fetus to term; (d) provides information on the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs during pregnancy; and (e) provides information on the different types of contraceptive choices, including abstinence and natural family planning.  The 2004 law allows the attending physician to bypass these requirements only in cases of medical emergency, rape, or incest.  "Medical emergency" is defined as a medical condition of the woman that necessitates an immediate abortion to preserve her life or for which a delay will create "serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."  Alaska Stat. §§ 18.05.032 (Enacted 2004), 18.16.010 (Enacted 1970; Renumbered 1978; Reorganized 1986; Last Amended 2004), 18.16.060 (Enacted 2004). 

In September of 2004, 16 Alaskan obstetricians and gynecologists sent a letter protesting the state-prepared Internet website to lawmakers, the governor, the Supreme Court and doctors in their field.  Colleen Murphy, an obstetrician who signed the letter, said the website's real purpose would be to deter women from choosing abortion and that doctors already ensure that women are fully informed about risks.  Lisa Demer, Website on Abortion Gets One Volunteer:  Deadline Missed: The Medical Board Needs Five Doctors for a Panel, Anchorage Daily News, Nov. 13, 2004.  Although many doctors initially refused to participate in producing the website, a compromise was reached and in March 2005, materials created by a panel that included pro-choice physicians became available on the Alaska Department of Health's website.  Lisa Demer, Abortion Web Site Doctors Selected; Panel:  Five Ob-Gyns Will Help Create the Informational Site, Anchorage Daily News, Nov. 25, 2004, at B1; Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Making a Decision About Your Pregnancy, http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/wcfh/informedconsent/ (last visited Apr. 8, 2005). 

The website was reviewed and updated in 2010 and currently reads as follows: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported, in their June 2009 Committee Option Induced Abortion and Breast Cancer Risk, that "...prospective studies conclude that there is no association between induced abortion and breast cancer" and that "Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed.  More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk."  The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) supports the view that there is a causal relationship between breast cancer and the termination of a pregnancy.  The subject can be explored in more detail by referring to the reference lists in this website.


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