JUNEAU (AP) -- A House-Senate conference committee has removed language in next year's budget that would have killed the Department of Health and Social Services budget if the courts forced the state to spend money on abortions.
Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, agreed to strip a provision he had added to the spending plan that would have repealed the agency's entire budget if a court ordered state money to be used for abortions.
The compromise language approved Sunday still says no state money is to be spent on abortions, as state budgets have in the past. The bill notes that any money spent without authorization under the bill is a violation of law and may have to be repaid.
''If you illegally spend state funds, you can be personally liable,'' Kelly said.
Office of Management and Budget Director Annalee McConnell said that language simply restates existing statute.
The compromise version states the agency can use state money for abortions only if the woman's life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest -- the same restrictions applied under federal law for use of federal Medicaid dollars.
The new language links the state matching money for federal Medicaid dollars in such a way it more clearly prohibits the agency from using state funds for elective abortions, Kelly said.
''It's probably stronger language in that each general fund dollar is attached to federal dollars by purpose language so that basically we're spending Medicaid money in a way Medicaid money was supposed to be spent,'' Kelly said.
McConnell was skeptical the new language would be any more effective than past budget language on abortion.
''It's just one more attempt to try to do what the courts have said they can't do,'' McConnell said. ''It's their view of how to tighten up the language so as to prevent the funds from being used for abortion. But ultimately that's going to be determined by the court.''
The change was acceptable to House Republicans unwilling to risk the Health and Social Services budget, said Anchorage Rep. Eldon Mulder, one of four Republicans on the conference committee.
''There's no poison pill. We've taken that out,'' Mulder said.
A Superior Court judge in 1999 ruled because of the privacy clause in the state's constitution, the state cannot deny funding for elective abortions if the state is providing other pregnancy-related services.
The agency is using state money to fund the procedure under court order and against the will of lawmakers.
The court decision sparked a Republican backlash this year against the judicial branch, touching off a flurry of efforts to slap the courts down.
Kelly is also trying to keep the courts from forcing state spending on abortions through a bill that states the constitutional right to privacy does not entitle Alaskans to receive public money, a public benefit or a public service.
That measure passed the Senate on Sunday, but still awaits action in the House.
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