According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the State of Maine is infringing upon the rights of women seeking to have an abortion at taxpayers’ expense. In the courtroom of Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Andrew Horton on Thursday, lawyers for the state argued that federal laws restricting the use of federal funds for abortions take precedence over Maine laws. They contended that this was what was behind a rule adopted by the state Department of Health and Human Services barring the state’s MaineCare Medicaid program from paying for abortions.

The suit was filed in 2015. Thursday was the first time that the case was argued before a judge. Judge Horton said he will rule quickly on both parties’ motions that seek a summary judgment or immediate ruling. However, Horton did not indicate when that decision might be handed down.

Paying for pregnancy-related services but not abortion, argued the ACLU, interferes with a woman’s right to an abortion by favoring the choice to continue the life of the unborn child. Additionally, the group’s attorney argue that this violates equal protection clauses in the state and federal constitutions. According to ACLU Maine legal director Zachary Heiden, “The choice and its constitutional protections are affected by the fact pregnancy services are funded and abortion isn’t.” 

So far, 13 states have been forced by courts to use taxpayer money to fund abortions for low-income women. However, attempts to use the courts to force public abortion funding have failed in other states. So far, four states allow state programs to pay for abortions for low-income women. On Thursday, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed legislation that will allow low-income women and government employees to use the state’s Medicaid program to pay for abortions. 

The other 33 states of the Union have varying restrictions or bar the use of state funds for abortions. On Thursday, after moving the hearing from a small courtroom to the bigger room used by Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court. He said at the time, “It strikes me that this case will likely end up in this courtroom, so we might as well get an early start on it.”
 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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