The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said Friday that 0.18 percent of Denali KidCare's budget last year went to provide "abortion related services." But the department did not have any figures on just how much of that went to actual abortions, or how many were performed.
Gov. Sean Parnell last week vetoed a bill to offer Denali KidCare coverage to more Alaskans because he said he'd just become aware money in the program funds abortions. Parnell said the health care program for low-income children and pregnant women paid for "hundreds" of abortions, a statement disputed by the state senator who pushed the money through the Legislature.
The state health department said Friday that $384,000 out of Denali KidCare's $217 million budget last year went for "abortion related services" and 664 individuals received such services. That doesn't mean they received abortions since that covers anyone who tells the program they are thinking about having an abortion, said Bill Streur, deputy commissioner of the department.
"It may or may not result in abortion. It may be a sonogram, it may be counseling that they receive," he said.
The health department said women on Denali KidCare can have an abortion funded if a physician finds it to be "medically necessary." The state has no choice about that because the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that "if the state undertakes to fund medically necessary services for poor Alaskans, it may not exclude from that program women who medically require abortions."
Streur said he has a "rough idea" of how many abortions were performed but didn't want to say until he has firm numbers. He said his main staffer for sorting through the data was out this week and they'll try next week to get the numbers.
The $3 million Parnell vetoed would have allowed an estimated 1,300 additional children and 218 more pregnant women to be on Denali KidCare. It would have expanded eligibility of the program to cover households with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, a threshold that's about $55,150 for a family of four. Proponents say that's the national standard and Parnell was giving up as much as $2 million in matching federal money with his veto.
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