Ruling allows nurse practitioners in Alaska to prescribe abortion pills

A concrete sign with an emblem of the Alaska flag and the words "Nesbett Courthouse". A sidwalk and streetlamps are in the background
Nesbett Courthouse in downtown Anchorage. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

An Alaska Superior Court judge has issued a preliminary injunction halting part of a state law that restricts who can conduct abortions.

Judge Josie Garton issued a ruling Tuesday that allows non-physician health care providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to provide medication to induce abortion.

The case was brought by Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky. The organization filed a lawsuit in 2019 against a law that prohibits anyone other than a licensed physician from performing abortions.

Alaska is one of many states that have laws saying only certified doctors can preform abortions. Proponents say they help prevent unsafe abortions.

Planned Parenthood argues the concern is outdated, especially now that nurse practitioners and other non-physicians already prescribe pills to help women following miscarriages that are the same as those prescribed by doctors to cause abortion.

The injunction only applies to medication abortions. The case will be decided at trial, scheduled for July.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.