State Health Flexibility Act Includes Anti-Abortion Clause
A bill introduced by Congressman Todd Rokita (R-Ind) would force states to halt programs that provide funding for abortions for low-income women. The bill, HR 4160 (PDF) or the State Health Flexibility Act, was introduced in March and has been added to the Republican budget plan. The bill would move Medicaid to a block grant model in which states are given blocks of money and can individually structure their low-income healthcare plans. Although the Hyde Amendment has prohibited federal funding of abortion since 1976, 17 states have programs that use state money to cover abortions for low income women as part of their Medicaid plans. HR 4160 would make this practice illegal.
Sara Rosenbaum, a health law expert at George Washington University, says the bill "would block the only avenue left to states that wish to make safe and legal abortions accessible to low income women." Judy Waxman of the National Women's Law Center says the bill "would be a significant change from how current law operates today."
Mother Jones' Nick Baumann, who investigated HR 4160, wrote that under the proposed plan, states would have "more say over how they spend Medicaid funds, but it forbids them from covering abortions, even with state money -- unless they purchase separate abortion-only plans or buy plans that include abortion coverage entirely with state funds. Either option could potentially cost these states millions of dollars."
Media Resources: Mother Jones 5/3/12; Feminist Daily News Wire 10/14/11
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8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .