“Now it’s incumbent on the governor to take a step in our direction,” says Sen. Hollis French, (D) Anchorage, “and sort of lay out what it is he will not agree with.”
The governor was not available for an interview with KTUU, but issued a statement:
“Where the Alaska Supreme Court won’t allow the state to expand health care for minors, without publicly funding more abortions, I won’t be moving the director Senator Davis wants to go.”
One of the women at the rally asked the governor to reconsider.
"People don’t want Denali KidCare paying for abortions, because they’re pro-life,” says Sarah Weber, whose baby daughter, Faye, has cancer and has received treatment through Denali KidCare.
“Denying a child like her healthcare, it seems pretty anti-life to me. I mean this absolutely saved her life,” said Weber.
Sen. Davis also held a day of hearings on the Denali Kidcare program, with the afternoon set aside for public comment.
Adele Person-Groening of Homer testified by telephone. She sounded as if she was choking back tears as she talked about how her husband, a self-employed construction worker and fisherman, has difficulty finding year-round work. Person-Groening is also seasonally employed.
“I can’t speak enough about that program, how much it’s meant to my family,” she said. The couple has two small children, ages 6 and 2.
Supporters of expanding Denali KidCare say the governor’s veto cost the state $1.8 million dollars in federal funding this year. Currently, the program provides health care to more than 7,900 children.
State eligibility guidelines used to be higher. Families could receive care for their children, if their incomes were at 200 per cent of the federal poverty level. Years ago, state lawmakers cut funding for the federal matching program back to the 175 per cent level. Davis says her bill would restore funding to historic levels.
The governor’s office says the State Department of Health and Social Services has no estimates on how many more abortions would be funded if more pregnant women are eligible for services.
In the 2010 fiscal year, 618 women had abortions services, a number which includes office visits and other care at a cost of $343,043. Denali KidCare advocates say that’s just a fraction of the program's $238 million dollar budget.