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PA Doesn’t Let State Money Fund Abortions. Now, Providers Are Suing

Matt Rourke
Abortion rights activist demonstrate at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

A group of abortion providers is suing Pennsylvania in an attempt to get the procedure covered by state Medicaid dollars.

They’re arguing that abortions can be an important part of women’s health care, and by not covering them, the state is violating the Equal Rights Amendment.

Women’s Law Project Attorney Susan Frietsche is one of the lawyers bringing the case. She puts the argument this way:

“Medical care is medically necessary for every pregnant woman. And if she is a pregnant woman who does not want to be pregnant, the medically necessary care is an abortion.”

Sixteen states allow Medicaid to cover abortions. At one time, Pennsylvania was among them.

But in 1982, the legislature passed a law outlawing state abortion funding, and the state Supreme Court upheld it three years later. The only exceptions are for rape, incest, or a life-threatening pregnancy.

It’s expected this lawsuit will also be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Frietsche said the timing is intentional—the court currently has a Democratic majority.

And that’s not the only thing she thinks has changed since the last time the court heard this case.

“We have now got some empirical evidence that we didn’t have in 1985,” she said. “People have studied what has happened to low-income women who are deprived of access to abortion, and it is devastating to their lives.”

Frietsche pointed to several similar, successful suits in other states—in particular, New Mexico and Connecticut

The federal government doesn’t allow Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions.

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