Alaska Senate passes abortion bill.

The Alaska Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would define what constitutes a "medically necessary" abortion.

Senate Bill 49 pertains to what abortions Alaska must pay for under the state Medicaid program.

It calls on the state Department of Health and Social Services to not pay for abortion services under the program

unless the abortions are medically necessary to avoid serious risk to a woman's life or physcal health.

Those words were echoed by Senator Lyman Hoffman, a Bethel Democrat, during a recent visit to Fairbanks.

"In certain incidents I believe that we should be paying," said Hoffman.  "But under special circumstances, as a general rule,

I don't think the state should be paying for abortions."

The bill's sponsor, North Pole Republican Senator John Coghill, says the state Supreme Court left legislators to decide what is medically


Coghill says he's trying to provide clarity to that.

"It's really asking the question when is it medically necessary?" said Coghill during a recent interview with News Center 11.  "The Supreme Court

says we have to when it's elective.  They never said we don't have to.  They never did define it, and this is my first opportunity in probably six or

seven years to really ask the question and have a Legislature actually deal with it.  It's a "hot button" issue, no doubt."

Critics say Senate Bill 49 is "unconstitutional."

The bill was amended on the floor to ask the department to make women's health services available under the state Medicaid program.