Pennsylvania Supreme Court orders reconsideration of Medicaid abortion coverage limits News
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court orders reconsideration of Medicaid abortion coverage limits

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered a lower court to reconsider whether a state law limiting Medicaid funds for abortion violates the equal protection rights of low-income individuals.

Under the 1982 Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, abortion care can only be covered by Medicaid — a government-funded health insurance program for low-income individuals and families — in the events of rape or incest, or if there is a threat to the life of the pregnant woman. In 2019, a group of reproductive health clinics led by Planned Parenthood filed suit against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) and various state officers, challenging the law on the basis that it violated the equal protection rights of individuals who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare because of their earnings.

In a 3-2 decision, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court held that the state’s Commonwealth Court must reconsider whether the law violates the constitutional rights of low-income individuals and families seeking reproductive healthcare.

The ruling does not establish a constitutional right to abortion in the state, though, two judges wrote that the “Pennsylvania Constitution secures the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes a right to decide whether to have an abortion or to carry a pregnancy to term.”

The court made clear that it has not “resolve[d] the ultimate issues challenging the constitutionality of the Coverage Exclusion.” The Commonwealth Court will now hear this case once again. The Commonwealth will have to determine whether the abortion coverage exclusion is “a compelling state interest” and that there are “no less intrusive methods … available to support the expressed policy.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misconstrued the weight and impact of the footnote relating to reproductive rights protection under Pennslyvania’s constitution. This version has been amended to reflect it was not a conclusion of law.