Gov. Parnell said last week that he vetoed a modest expansion of the Denali KidCare program for Alaska children and pregnant women as a matter of conscience. He said that when he learned the health insurance money could pay for abortions, he couldn't support its expansion. We respect the governor's convictions. But his decision in this case makes no sense and hurts children and pregnant women of poorer, working Alaska families who can't afford health insurance and don't qualify for Medicaid assistance.
Last session, the Alaska Legislature voted overwhelmingly to expand qualifying limits for Denali KidCare to 200 percent of federal poverty level. That's the level the program began with in 1999 and well within Alaska's budget.
The fact that it might include abortion funding should have come as no surprise to state leaders. The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down previous attempts to block state funding for abortion because it's a legal procedure, and the court has ruled pregnancy services must include that choice when medically necessary.
The effect of the governor's veto is to deny health care insurance to more than 1,000 Alaska children and up to 200 pregnant women -- including women who want to bring healthy babies into the world. Care for children and pregnant moms is pro-life.
If the governor can't justify expanding Denali KidCare, how does he justify any state funds for Denali KidCare? In effect he's saying he'll allow funding for abortions for families making up to 175 percent of poverty level, but not up to 200 percent. Does he intend to kill the program entirely?
It's unclear just how much of the money goes for abortions; Sen. Bettye Davis says there are few, the governor didn't know when he announced the veto, and the Department of Health and Social Services has been slow to provide numbers.
At any rate, if Gov. Parnell feels bound to oppose abortion then he should fight that battle in the courts, at the ballot box and/or with education and support for women with unintended pregnancies.
He shouldn't do it by denying an effective health care program to more than 1200 Alaska children and women.
BOTTOM LINE: Denali KidCare veto is the wrong way to oppose abortion.