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Senate Finance Committee approves abortion bill

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Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:00 am

JUNEAU — A vote on a bill that would define when an abortion is “medically necessary” will occur “as soon as possible,” the bill’s sponsor said Monday.

The Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 49, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, after a short meeting Monday and hearing public testimony during the weekend.

The contentious bill sets out guidelines to define which abortions the state must pay for through the state Medicaid program. Those guidelines notably leave out any mental illness as a reason.

The state would only pay for “elective” abortions in cases of reported rape and incest.

The bill is now in the Senate Rules Committee, where it could sit until it’s ready for a vote on the floor. When asked when he thinks that could be, Coghill said “as soon as possible.”

He said it will largely depend on the timing of other large pieces of legislation, including the capital budget.

It will be the first time either body of the Legislature has voted on abortion since 2009, when the House approved a bill, by then-Rep. Coghill, requiring parental consent for minors to get an abortion.

In 2010, voters approved a law requiring parents be notified before a minor undergoes an abortion.

In recent years, the Legislature has been quiet on abortion largely because of bipartisan control of the 20-member Senate. After the latest round of redistricting, the Senate is now squarely in Republican hands.

Senate Bill 49 has drawn criticism from supporters of legalized abortion, who say the state shouldn’t be interfering between a woman and her doctor. They also say the bill, if passed, could be the target of lawsuits.

The House started work on a companion piece of legislation on Monday, taking public testimony. Coghill said he’s hopeful the House will pass his bill this year, sending the new abortion requirements to the governor’s desk this summer.

“I’m hoping to get it through this year,” he said. “It’s close enough to where I think it can, but I will be ready to continue work next year.”

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter:

@FDNMpolitics.

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