Debate Over Medicaid Funding For Abortions Resumes In Florida
A judge in Florida refused to dismiss a lawsuit yesterday challenging the state’s ban for funding most abortions under Medicaid. While Administrative Judge Patricia Malono does not have the authority to hear the case involving a pregnant epileptic woman seeking an abortion to avert serious medical risks to herself and her child, she did hear arguments from both sides and passed the case on to an appeals court.
With legal representation from the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union, a Miami abortion clinic, a doctor and Monica Navarrete – a pregnant woman who has epilectic seizures during pregnancy and has previously given birth to a child with a serious bone disease resulting from her taking anti-seizure medication – filed the lawsuit, claiming that the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s denial of Medicaid coverage for abortion discriminates against low-income women who seek to terminate their pregnancies for medical reasons. Medicaid does cover all reproductive health care needed by men, the suit argues, including Viagra for impotency. “This is not about the right to legal abortions or any right to medical care,” Attorney Bonnie Scott Jones argued, as reported in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “It’s about the right of women to equal treatment in the Medicaid program.”
In Florida, Medicaid will pay for abortions needed to save the life of the woman or in cases of rape or incest. However, federal law allows states to limit the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortions. Bob Sharpe, Florida’s Medicaid director, testified the state would not get federal matching dollars for abortions in cases such as Navarrete’s.
Pro-choice activists note that improving access to abortion under Medicaid could curb unsafe, illegal abortions among poor women. In 1977, Rosie Jimenez became the first victim of the Hyde Amendment that bans the use of federal money for abortions except to save a woman’s life. Jimenez was a poor, single mother saving money for college who decided to have a back alley abortion instead of using her tuition money so that she could some day make it off welfare and support herself and her daughter on her own.
Media Resources: Associated Press 8/30/02; Sarasota Herald-Tribune 8/28/02; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 8/29/02; News-Press 8/30/02
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. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .