To limit abortions, boost Denali KidCare

COMPASS Other points of view

January 16, 2012 

I am deeply disappointed that the Anchorage Daily News would endorse a Denali KidCare compromise that ignores the health of uninsured pregnant mothers. While I agree that this stalemate over the passage of Denali KidCare is unacceptable, we cannot ignore the fact that without a healthy pregnancy we cannot have healthy kids.

A program that excludes pregnant women's coverage between 175 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) means these women will not get needed prenatal care, increasing the risk of children being born with preventable health problems. This sets bad public health precedent and will increase the overall cost of Denali KidCare.

It is criminal to deny them coverage while expanding it for children after they have been born on the basis of a compromise so that our governor can get his way. Our governor was elected to uphold all the laws of Alaska, not just the ones he agrees with.

Regarding the funding for medically necessary abortions, all women deserve access to medically necessary care, regardless of their economic situation, including abortion. One in three women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 in the U.S., making it the third most common medical procedure for women, behind tooth extraction and cataract surgery.

Preventing unintended pregnancy is the only thing that will reduce abortions in Alaska. Providing a more robust family planning program that includes birth control and other contraception would prevent far more abortions than limiting coverage under Denali KidCare. In fact, the governor could immediately change the scope of our current Medicaid program to establish family planning-only coverage for women up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level if he also increased Denali KidCare to 200 percent. Estimates show that an investment in family planning of $650,000 would save $7.7 million in Medicaid costs and prevent approximately 430 abortions.

This is a win-win for all. We provide needed health coverage to kids and pregnant women and prevent unintended pregnancies with a very small investment. It is time for Gov. Parnell to represent us all and protect he most vulnerable in our communities.

Clover Simon is federal program director for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest in Anchorage.

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