By Grace Carr
A Maine judicial court heard arguments Wednesday over whether the state should be forced to subsidize women having abortions after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on allegations of discrimination.
“A woman’s fundamental right to choose an abortion does not carry with it the right to a government-paid abortion,” said Maine’s litigation division chief Susan Herman, according to The Times Record. She pointed to a previous decision that posits the state can choose to pay for abortions via Medicaid, but is under no obligation to do so.
The ACLU’s attorney vehemently disagreed, saying that to force women to pay for their own abortions while paying for services that help low-income pregnant women is equivalent to the state “putting its thumb on the scale of a highly personal decision,” The Times Record reported.
The ACLU sued on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Maine Family Planning and Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center.
Despite being one of the bluest states on the East Coast, Maine’s abortion funding has been in limbo for years, beginning in 2015 when the ACLU sued the state over abortion funding. The group alleged that the state discriminates against women seeking abortions because it prohibits state Medicaid from paying for abortion services, while it allows those funds to cover the cost of pregnancy services. The group’s suit claims the uneven funding violates the Equal Protection Clause, and asked the state to overturn the law.
Under the Hyde Amendment, Maine pays for abortions only when a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if continuing the pregnancy threatens the prospective mother’s life.
The Maine legislature can, however, fund abortions through MaineCare if it chooses to do so. While the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal dollars from paying for abortions, it doesn’t bar the state from using its own program funds to pay for abortions. Thus far, no Maine judge has ruled that it can.
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