Medicaid and Abortion

Medicaid is a joint program of the state and federal governments that provides health care services to qualified low-income people in the United States. These include children, elderly citizens and people who have disabilities. Recipients of Medicaid benefits must pass certain qualifications, which can vary in different states. Every state oversees the Medicaid program for their respective area, while under the regulation of federal law and guidelines. In some states, both the state and federal government shoulder the finances for the program. Access to abortion services can be especially problematic for women who are dependent upon Medicaid. The Hyde Amendment, enacted in 1976, denies federal Medicaid coverage of abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Abortion was made legal in 1973, and the procedure was available to low-income women since it was covered by Medicaid. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) proposed a revision to the annual Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations bill in 1979 which stated that federal funds cannot be used for paying for abortions. The Hyde Amendment was made into a law which took away Medicaid assistance for low-income women who will undergo abortion. Part of the amendment also stopped health plans of military personnel, federal employees and women in federal prisons from paying for abortion. The Hyde Amendment was changed in 1981 which again permitted Medicaid to cover abortions that were required when the life of the mother is at stake. The law was made more lenient in 1993 which made Medicaid assisted abortion available to victims of rape and incest. These new changes were refused by a number of states, who were then advised to conform by federal courts.

Since each state administers their own Medicaid program, there are states that use state-only resources to cover abortions brought about by different situations. This state Medicaid programs coverage are also different dependent on the state. Benefit eligibility can also be based if the woman is a US citizen or a legal or unqualified immigrant.

Many states feel that it is unreasonable for low-income women to be deprived of Medicaid coverage for abortion. They will not be permitted to receive inexpensive and safe abortion services. Low-income women may be obliged to go through an unwanted pregnancy since they usually do not have enough money for any medical procedures, and abortion is included in these. Research has revealed that around 18 to 23 percent of low income women who reside in states that do not give Medicaid assistance for abortion had no choice but to proceed with their pregnancies. If ever low-income women undergo abortion, they usually have to use their money that should have been spent for other important necessities like food, clothing or shelter.

There are groups of people who criticize the government for killing unborn children through Medicaid covered abortions. Many taxpayers do not support abortion, and funding for Medicaid comes from the taxes that these people pay. They have frequently voiced out that Medicaid should not be given to low-income women who do not engage in any form of family planning and will undergo abortion services.