ACLU and Georgia Health Clinics Dismayed that Medicaid Still Not Covering Abortions Poor Women Need to Protect Their Health

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
December 22, 2003 12:00 am

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ATLANTA – A Georgia state court today denied an emergency request made by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several local clinics to require Medicaid to cover abortions a doctor determines a poor woman needs to protect her health.

“”We are disappointed that the court did not grant our initial request for Medicaid coverage for medically necessary abortions,”” said Leola Reis, Vice President of Communications, Planned Parenthood of Georgia. “”However, this is just the first step in a lengthy legal process, and we remain optimistic that the court will ultimately protect poor women’s health.””

The health clinics challenging Georgia Medicaid’s policy have seen firsthand how denying coverage for medically necessary abortions threatens the health of their low-income patients, the ACLU said.

“”If a Medicaid-eligible woman finds out she has a heart condition and needs an abortion, or if she finds out she is carrying a fetus that suffers from a condition that is incompatible with life, the state should not put up roadblocks that make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to obtain the care she needs,”” said Nancy Boothe, Executive Director of Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta. “”This case is far from over, and we will continue to fight to ensure our patient’s health.””

According to a recent Georgia Legislative Poll, 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.””

Medicaid provides assistance for a broad range of medical services necessary to protect the health of low-income Georgians, including pregnancy related care, except abortion. Medicaid covers abortions only when the woman’s life is endangered or her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. It does not cover abortions where continuation of the pregnancy poses serious risks to a woman’s health.

This legal challenge asks the court to require Medicaid to cover abortion to the same extent as other medically necessary services.

“”We are not asking for special treatment for abortion, only that abortion be covered as all other medically necessary care,”” said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “”Moreover, coverage for medically necessary abortions will not cost the state more money. Protecting women’s health is sound public policy, and we’re confident that the court will ultimately see the fairness of our request.””

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, et al. (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, Inc.

The ACLU brief filed in the case can be viewed online at: /node/35393

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

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