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Texas' Limits on Medicaid Abortion Spending Upheld

January 01, 2003|From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — The state is not constitutionally obligated to pay for abortions for poor women who may have health complications from their pregnancy, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The 8-0 ruling, with one abstention, upheld a state law that prohibits the use of Medicaid money for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or when the mother's life is in danger. It also held that the state has a legitimate interest in promoting childbirth over abortion.

The state rules are patterned after federal law that restricts abortion spending.

The Texas court overturned a lower court ruling and rejected a 1998 lawsuit filed by doctors and abortion providers who said the state should pay for abortions for poor women suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, epilepsy and other complications that may present health risks during a pregnancy.

The restriction is unfair to women, because men on Medicaid cannot be denied any "medically necessary" procedure, argued Bonnie Scott Jones, a lawyer for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Law and Policy.

"Only poor women are forced under this program to endure these health risks; men are not," she said. "If they get sick, they are taken care of."

Attorneys for the state contended the law does not discriminate against women. "It's only those women who make that ultimate choice to have an abortion who are treated differently," Jeff Boyd said.

The Supreme Court's opinion stated that the law is neutral on matters of gender because it simply denies money for treatment not covered by federal money.

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