A lawsuit by Planned Parenthood against the State of Alaska and State Board of Nursing claims the prohibition against nurses and midwives performing abortions is an illegal barrier for women seeking to end their pregnancies.
Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuit Thursday, saying that state law and the Board of Nursing provide no justification for barring nurse practitioners and midwives from performing abortions.
Planned Parenthood affiliates in other parts of the nation have filed 11 similar lawsuits against states that restrict abortion procedures to licensed physicians. It’s part of the Planned Parenthood attempt to expand abortion across the 50 states during a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is more balanced than it has been for years.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has replaced all but one of the members of the Board of Nursing, and the executive director was replaced after the Legislature made a scathing report about the board’s poor performance.
The new Board of Nursing is decidedly more conservative than the board appointed by Gov. Bill Walker, who also had attempted to appoint a Planned Parenthood employee to the Board of Midwives. The entire Board of Nursing is named in the lawsuit.
Planned Parenthood says the rights of women are being violated because abortions can only be performed by physicians.
The abortion industry group wants others in the medical profession to be able to perform what they call “low-risk aspiration procedures,” which are, in fact, the most common type of abortion procedure.
Those procedures are generally done with a syringe or mechanical vacuum up to 12 weeks after the last menstrual cycle, when a baby has most of his or her vital organs and systems fully formed. The baby, which in its 12th week is about the size of a kiwi, cannot survive outside the womb. The basic brain structure is complete by week 12. The baby spends the rest of its gestation maturing those organs to be prepared for birth.
There were 1,283 abortions reported in Alaska in 2018, up from 1,255 reported the previous year. 98 percent of those abortions were performed by the 13th week of gestation, according to the annual report from the Department of Health and Social Services.
Planned Parenthood has an active training program in Washington and Hawaii to help non-doctors enter the field of abortion services, since fewer physicians are interested in entering the field.
Laws that allow for physician-only abortions were put in place across the nation after Roe v. Wade to protect the health of the surviving mother from untrained and unlicensed abortion providers. Now, a handful of states allow advanced nurse practitioners and others to perform early-stage abortions.
In Alaska, where there are so few abortions performed, having an out-of-practice nurse or midwife perform an abortion on occasion may actually introduce new risks, critics say.
The lawsuit joins a long list of others filed by those opposing the Dunleavy Administration and its conservative mandate from voters. Another lawsuit regarding abortion is claiming Gov. Dunleavy’s veto of funding to the court system over its abortion mandates is illegal.