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Alaska: Did You Know?

Did you know that the governor of Alaska vetoed a bill that would have given thousands of women access to prenatal care?

In 2009, pro-choice legislators in Alaska introduced AK S.B. 13: Medical Assistance Eligibility, a bill to expand health-care coverage for low-income children and pregnant women under the state’s Denali KidCare program.  If enacted, this legislation would have raised the eligibility ceiling to 200 percent of the poverty level, or an income of $55,140 annually for a family of four, restoring the program to its high-water mark from 2000, when pro-choice former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) first implemented the program.

By April 2010, the bill had passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature.  Unfortunately, however, anti-choice Gov. Sean Parnell (R) – who succeeded anti-choice Sarah Palin following her resignation in July 2009 – immediately vetoed the bill, effectively denying health-care coverage to thousands of children and pregnant women.  Citing his concerns that the bill also would have continued providing funding for low-income women’s access to abortion services, as has been the state’s Medicaid policy for many years, Gov. Parnell stated: “My intention here today is to make sure we don't expand state government funding of abortions here in Alaska.”  He also claimed: “If your governor doesn't stand for life and liberty, as he understands it in his conscience, then you don't have a governor.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America supports the right of every woman to choose from the full spectrum of reproductive rights, including the right to bear healthy children. It is unconscionable and counterintuitive for Gov. Parnell to deny crucial health care to thousands of children and pregnant women on the basis of his personal opposition to abortion. It is particularly ironic that politicians who take this stance, like Gov. Parnell, call themselves “pro-life.”

Bettye Davis, Gov.’s Veto Denies Healthcare to Vulnerable, Homer Tribune (July 28, 2010), Sean Cockerham, Parnell Cites Abortion in KidCare Funds Veto, Anchorage Daily News (June 4, 2010).

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