News Abortion

Alaska Medicaid Abortion Rules Will No Longer Require “Prompt Reporting” of Sexual Assault

Robin Marty

Rape victims will no longer be required to "promptly report" their assaults in order to pay for an abortion with Medicaid in Alaska.

Alaska Republicans are still trying to narrow the number of women eligible for Medicaid support for medically-indicated abortions, a move they have already been warned by the state Supreme Court is likely unconstitutional. However, a plan to force those impregnated as a result of rape to immediately report the crime or lose the right to an abortion under Medicaid has been removed from the bill.

Despite the failure of the reporting requirement, Senate Majority Leader John Coghill still supports other measures in the bill to limit Medicaid coverage of safe abortion care to those instances in which a doctor documents a serious risk of death or “impairment of a major bodily function.” The bill would not consider a woman’s health at risk unless it represents a “life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy” that places the woman’s health at risk.

“Though the removal of the insensitive requirements for victims of sexual assault is one step forward, the fact of the matter is this bill still places politicians between women and their doctors,” Treasure Mackley, political and organizing director at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, told the Associated Press. “Restricting access to state-funded abortion is blatant government overreach and would restrict our fundamental right to privacy and equality protected by the Alaska Constitution.”

Last year’s attempt to restrict abortion access for poor women via regulation by the state board of health failed after the Supreme Court warned the state that the restrictions would be unconstitutional.

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News Politics

To Avoid Campus Sexual Assault, Kasich Suggests, Don’t Go to Parties With a Lot of Alcohol

Ally Boguhn

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) told a young woman at a town hall event in New York who was worried about sexual violence on campus that she should avoid attending parties with excessive alcohol.

At a town hall event in New York, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) told a young woman who was worried about sexual violence on campus that she should avoid attending parties with excessive alcohol.

“Being that I am a young female college student, what are you going to do in office as president to help me feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment, and rape?” the first-year student at St. Lawrence University asked the Republican presidential candidate on Friday.

Kasich replied that in Ohio, “we think that when you enroll you ought to absolutely know” how to report sexual harassment “or whatever” confidentially, access a rape kit, and “pursue justice after you’ve had some time to reflect on it all.” Adding that similar rules should be applied nationwide, he continued that he has “two 16-year-old daughters, and I don’t even like to think about it.”

“It’s sad, but it’s something that I have to worry about,” the student noted.

“I’d also give you one bit of advice. Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol. OK? Don’t do that,” Kasich responded.

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After the town hall, Kasich’s campaign tweeted“Only one person is at fault in a sexual assault, and that’s the assailant.”

Victims needs [sic] to know we’re doing everything we can to have their backs, and that’s happening in Ohio under John Kasich’s leadership,” said another tweet from the campaign.

However, Kasich’s comments had already begun to garner criticism from those who felt he was placing the responsibility for stopping sexual violence on the victims.

“Let me say this simply, so that the governor can understand—rape victims are not responsible for rape. It’s on all of us—men and women—to address campus sexual assault,” Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis said in a statementaccording to Cincinnati.com.

Others argued that Kasich’s statement was reflective of his past record on reproductive rights and women’s health.

“John Kasich’s plan for combating sexual assault as president is to blame women who go to parties. John Kasich’s pattern of dismissing the concerns of women is disturbing enough,” said Dawn Laguens, vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), in a statement. PPAF has already endorsed Clinton for the presidency. 

“As Governor, John Kasich has implemented policies that reflect his disregard for women, enacting 18 measures that restrict women’s access to reproductive health care while nearly half the abortion providers in his state closed their doors. He eliminated domestic violence prevention and a healthy moms and healthy babies program, simply because they were provided by Planned Parenthood. A John Kasich presidency would punish women. We can’t let his dangerous agenda into the White House,” continued Laguens.

As ThinkProgress’ Alice Ollstein explained, not only did Kasich’s so-called advice seem to blame the victim, it “also perpetuates the disproved myth that there is a direct link between alcohol consumption and rape. In fact, incidents of rape have been declining since 1979, while binge drinking has been steadily rising during the same time period. While alcohol is present in about half of all sexual assaults, it’s also present in about that same percentage of all violent crimes.” 

At least one in four undergraduate women are sexually assaulted during their time on campus, according to a September 2015 survey conducted by the Association of American Universities.

Kasich similarly pitched the merits of confidential reporting of campus sexual violence during a February town hall event hosted by CNN, where he promised, if elected, to “use a bully pulpit” to “speak out” on the topic and push “legislatures to begin to pay attention to these issues.”

The Ohio governor’s state budget for fiscal year 2016 also included $2 million to prevent and respond to campus sexual assault. In October, the Ohio Department of Higher Education launched an initiative to “prevent and better respond to incidents of sexual violence” on all of the state’s college campuses using the money allocated by the budget.

However, Kasich’s 2013 budget contained a “gag rule” provision blocking funding for rape crisis centers that provide information about abortion. Among the other anti-choice provisions included in the budget was a mandate on ultrasounds for abortions and the reallocation of Planned Parenthood funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which regularly lie to patients in order to persuade them not to have an abortion.

News Law and Policy

Alaska Court Strikes Law Limiting Medicaid Abortion Coverage

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Thursday's decisions guarantees Medicaid funding for abortions for indigent Alaskans.

The Alaska Superior Court on Thursday struck down a state law and Department of Health and Social Services regulation that would have severely limited Medicaid coverage of abortions for low-income patients.

The regulation at issue sought to circumvent a 2001 decision by the Alaska Supreme Court that the state Medicaid program must cover abortions determined by a physician to be medically necessary. The ruling also redefined those conditions that would qualify as “medically necessary.”

Once the regulation was passed, reproductive rights advocates sued, arguing that the new rule unconstitutionally precludes all but the most severely ill women from qualifying for coverage of abortion services, in violation of the Alaska Constitution.

The regulation was temporarily blocked in February 2014, but shortly thereafter the Alaska legislature passed a statute defining a “medically necessary abortion” even more narrowly, and a challenge to the statute was added to the litigation.

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Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered Thursday that the state be blocked from implementing both the statute and the regulation, ruling both violated the equal protection clause of the Alaska Constitution by creating criteria for Medicaid coverage of abortions not imposed on any other service covered by health-care program.

“For far too long, politicians in Alaska have tried to sidestep constitutional protections that bar restricting access to abortion coverage,” said Joshua A. Decker, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, in a statement following the decision. “Today’s ruling upholds those constitutional safeguards and makes clear that a woman’s health shouldn’t have to suffer simply because she is poor.”

The law defined medically necessary abortions as those needed to avoid a threat of serious risk to a patient’s life or physical health from continuation of a pregnancy.

The law further limited that definition to include only a serious risk of death or “impairment of a major bodily function” caused by one of 21 different conditions, such as a coma, seizures, and epilepsy. It also included a more general category for “another physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy that places the woman in danger of death or major bodily impairment if an abortion is not performed.”

“Every Alaskan woman, regardless of income, should be able to make the pregnancy decision that’s best for herself and her family,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. “We applaud the superior court for striking down these cruel restrictions on women’s health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution.”

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