Court OKs Denying Medicaid for Necessary Abortions

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WOMENSENEWS)-Poor women in Florida won't get any help from the state to pay for an abortion, even if a doctor concludes one is medically necessary.

In its first abortion case in a dozen years, the state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and against a group of poor women and abortion providers represented by the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Speaking for the majority, Justice Major Harding wrote that women have a right to privacy in choosing an abortion, but are not entitled to have the state pay for the procedure.

“The fact remains that Florida's Medicaid program leaves an indigent woman with at least the same range of choice in deciding whether to obtain a medically necessary abortion as she would have had if the Legislature had chosen to subsidize no health care costs at all,” Harding wrote.

The plaintiffs argued that the ban on abortion funding violated both poor women's right to privacy and the equal protection clause of the state constitution that guarantees men and women will be treated the same. The state does pay for Viagra for poor men, they argued.

“Today's decision ignores the profound effect that the funding ban has on poor women's ability to choose abortion in order to preserve their health if they suffer from conditions such as cancer and renal disease,” Bonnie Scott Jones, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, said in a statement.

The ruling was delivered eight years after a suit was originally filed in West Palm Beach, Fla. The high court decided only on the privacy issue and not on the question of Constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. That leaves the door open for further court battles.

One judge who agreed with the decision wrote a dissent saying that the court should have addressed the equal protection aspect of the case because further litigation is inevitable.

“I am unable to ascertain what further information could be garnered from renewed or additional litigation on an issue that in my opinion demands immediate resolution and will undoubtedly wind its way back to this court,” said Justice Leander Shaw, adding that the court failure to address that issue will “only result in a fruitless delay.”