ACLU and Georgia Health Clinics Ask State to Protect Poor Women's Health by Covering Medically Necessary Abortions

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
December 2, 2003 12:00 am

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ATLANTA — Moving to protect the health of low-income women across Georgia, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today on behalf of several clinics in the state, arguing that the denial of Medicaid coverage for medically necessary abortions threatens women’s health and violates their rights.

“”Georgia Medicaid endangers poor women’s health by denying coverage for abortions that a doctor determines are medically necessary,”” said Nancy Boothe, Executive Director of Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta. “”If a Medicaid-eligible woman finds out she has cancer and needs an abortion, the state should not put up roadblocks that make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to obtain the care she needs.””

Today’s case was filed on behalf of health clinics throughout the state that care for women every day and have seen first-hand how the denial of coverage for medically necessary abortions threatens the health of their low-income patients, the ACLU said.

According to the Georgia Legislative Poll, conducted in October, close to 70 percent of registered voters in Georgia agree that Medicaid “”should cover abortions that a doctor determines are necessary to protect a woman’s health.””

“”Tragically, some pregnant women learn that their fetuses suffer from genetic disorders that are incompatible with life. Medicaid will only cover their medical care if they continue the pregnancy,”” said Kay Scott, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood of Georgia. “”Where is the compassion in forcing a woman to give birth to a stillborn?””

Medicaid provides assistance for a broad range of medical services necessary to protect the health of low-income Georgians. Covered services include pregnancy-related care except abortions, unless the woman’s life is endangered or her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Today’s lawsuit asks that abortion be covered to the same extent as other medically necessary services.

“”We are not asking for special treatment for abortion,”” said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “”We are only asking that poor women not be denied the care their doctors say they need just because that care happens to be an abortion.””

Sixteen states cover medically necessary abortions in their Medicaid programs on the same or similar terms as other pregnancy-related care. Three of these provide coverage voluntarily; in the remaining 13, courts have ordered coverage.

The case is Feminist Women’s Health Center, et al. v. Burgess (No. 2003 CV 78487). Attorneys in the case include Louise Melling, Director, Jennifer Dalven, Deputy Director, and Jaya Ramji, Staff Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Maggie Garrett of the ACLU of Georgia; and Marcia Borowski of Thompson, Rollins, Schwartz and Borowski, LLC of Decatur

Plaintiffs include Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood of Georgia, Inc., Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services, Inc., Atlanta Surgi-Center, Inc., Columbus Women’s Health Organization, Inc., Summit Medical Associates, P.C., and Atlanta Women’s Medical Center.

A brief in the case can be viewed online at: /node/35393

The Georgia Legislative Poll is available online at: /node/22588

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