Thursday, February 15, 2018

Maine’s Top Court Considers State Abortion Funding

(Feb. 5, 2018) Maine's high court to decide if state, through MaineCare, must pay for abortions, by Eric Russell:

The Maine Supreme Court earlier this month agreed to take up a case filed by the ACLU of Maine in November 2015 on behalf of three providers – Mabel Wadsworth Center, Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. The Court will decide whether the state's refusal to fund abortions for women on MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, violates the Maine Constitution and state statute.

MaineCare currently covers pregnancy-related care if women choose to carry their pregnancy to term. The ACLU suit contends that because the state funds one kind of coverage for low-income women but doesn’t provide coverage for abortion care, it discriminates against women who decide to have an abortion and violates state equal protection.

Last fall, Maine's Superior Court ruled against the ACLU, arguing that there is no "basis in the Maine Constitution or a Maine statute for compelling the state to provide MaineCare funding" for abortion care, and that the ACLU should seek recourse in the legislature or executive branch. The ACLU appealed the decision, and the issue is now before the state's Supreme Court.

At the federal level, the Hyde Amendment bars federal funds from being used for abortions unless the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest or the abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. Hyde does not bar states from providing coverage, though many states do restrict both public and private insurance coverage for abortion care, including Maine. Only four states voluntarily provide insurance coverage for abortion through state Medicaid programs. Thirteen more states are required to provide such coverage by court orders.

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