Today, the Indiana Supreme Court, in a 3-2 vote, expanded the state’s Medicaid coverage for a low-income woman’s abortion to include cases when the pregnancy poses a serious and irreversible risk to her health. Prior to the court’s decision, Indiana only provided Medicaid coverage for abortions in cases of risk to the life of the woman, or in cases of rape or incest.
The court’s decision stated that Indiana must grant Medicaid coverage to low-income women for abortions when the pregnancy creates a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” This standard for coverage is more limited than Marion Superior Court Judge Susan Macey Thompson’s ruling, which held that the state must provide Medicaid funding for all medically necessary abortions. The state appealed that decision directly to the state Supreme Court. The two judges dissenting from the majority opinion today would have affirmed Judge Thompson’s ruling and granted Medicaid funding for all medically necessary abortions.
“While we are disappointed that the Supreme Court did not hold that all medically necessary abortions must be funded, we are gratified that the state of Indiana can no longer deny Medicaid coverage for abortions to low-income women whose health is seriously imperiled by a pregnancy,” said Bebe J. Anderson, Staff Attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights and lead counsel in the case. “The Supreme Court recognized that it is unconstitutional to exclude such coverage from the state Medicaid program.”
Thirteen states have been ordered by state courts to provide coverage for all medically necessary abortions. Abortions are medically necessary for several reasons. Women with preexisting health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and epilepsy may endanger their health if they carry their pregnancy to term. Other women must take medications or receive treatments such as chemotherapy that pose a risk to the fetus, forcing the woman to choose between endangering her health or her fetus’ health if she continues her pregnancy.
Plaintiffs in Clinic for Women v. Humphreys include Clinic for Women, Inc., Women’s Pavilion, Inc., Ulrich G. Klopfer, D.O., and Martin Haskell, M.D. They are represented by Bebe J. Anderson from the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with cooperating counsel Mary Hoeller of White and Raub.