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July 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – When the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the state couldn’t cut tax dollars to abortion, the state’s Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy devised a creative response: cutting the same amount of money from the court’s budget. Now the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the move.
Under a 2013 law, Medicaid funds can only pay for abortions that meet the conditions of the federal Hyde Amendment – sought for rape, incest, or to preserve a mother’s health – or if they’re deemed “medically necessary.” A certificate instituted the following year defines the health exception as applying to a list of conditions “that would place the woman in danger of death” or “imminent danger of medical impairment of a major bodily function.”
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest sued on the grounds that placing the conditions on which abortions qualified for aid was “discriminatory,” and the state Supreme Court voted 4-1 with them in February, part of a history of pro-abortion rulings.
In response, Dunleavy used a line-item veto to reduce the state judicial budget by $334,700 for the 2020 budget, the annual taxpayer price tag of elective abortions. “The Legislative and Executive Branch are opposed to state-funded elective abortions; the only branch of government that insists on state-funded elective abortions is the Supreme Court,” the governor’s office said. “The annual cost of elective abortions is reflected by this reduction.”
The ACLU announced a lawsuit against the veto Wednesday, KTVA reports. “This lawsuit is not about your position on a woman's right to choice,” but “about the governor illegally politicizing our judiciary,” ACLU of Alaska executive director Joshua Decker claimed. “The governor's action is so brazen and so unprecedented. All of our previous governors knew not to play politics with our judges and so that's why we're suing today.”
The lawsuit claims that for one branch to use the budget process to punish the court for its decisions violates separation of powers; pro-lifers argue that judicially mandating legal and taxpayer-subsidized abortion is judicial activism rather than faithful interpretation of the law.
Alaska Public Media reports that Dunleavy press secretary Matt Shuckerow asserted that the governor has broad veto authority under the law, but beyond that Dunleavy will not be commenting on the lawsuit for the time being, as it’s now a matter of pending litigation.
Back in February, the Alaska Supreme Court’s lone dissenter, Chief Justice Craig Stowers wrote that his colleagues had gotten the law wrong.
Determining what is or is not “medically necessary” fell within the legislature’s rightful prerogative, he said, particularly when concerning the allocation of finite taxpayer dollars. “Nothing in Alaska’s equal protection clause requires the state to subsidize non-medically-necessary abortions for Medicaid-eligible women simply because it provides them with medically necessary healthcare,” Stowers wrote.