Judge grants request to expand medication abortion providers

A state court judge has granted a request to allow advanced practice clinicians in Alaska to provide medication abortion while an underlying legal case proceeds.

Superior Court Judge Josie Garton, in a written order Tuesday, said Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky “has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim that prohibiting advanced practice clinicians from providing medication abortion violates patients’ right to privacy under the Alaska Constitution by significantly restricting the availability of abortions in this state without sufficient justification.”

“The law also likely violates patients’ right to equal protection, since it prevents patients seeking abortions from receiving care from advanced practice clinicians that patients experiencing miscarriage may receive from the same providers,” Garton wrote.

The ruling came on an injunction request by Planned Parenthood, which sued nearly two years ago to challenge a state law that dates back decades and limits who can perform abortions. The group also said the Alaska Board of Nursing had rejected requests for advanced practice clinicians to provide aspiration procedures to treat miscarriages.

The case is set for trial in July, where Planned Parenthood “will seek to make this ruling permanent and further expand access for qualified health care professionals to provide not only medication abortion but other safe, early abortion and miscarriage care,” the organization said in a statement.

The injunction sought by the group earlier this year and granted by Garton is to allow advanced practice clinicians to provide medication abortions. That category includes advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants, attorneys for the group said in court documents.

Aaron Sadler, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Law, said the department plans “to proceed with the case and defend the statute,” which he said was enacted in 1970. Department attorneys are representing the state in the case.