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Nearly Allied to Her Right to Be - Medicaid Funding for Abortion: The Story of Harris v. McRae

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Document pages: 39 pages

Abstract: This paper, published as the sixth chapter of Women and the Law Stories tells the story of Harris v. McRae, the 1980 Supreme Court decision upholding the Hyde Amendment’s exclusion of coverage for medically necessary abortions from the otherwise comprehensive Medicaid program. Decided in the context of a growing, religiously-impelled mobilization against abortion and funding, this decision not only gutted the right to abortion for poor women, but it also undermined fundamental constitutional principles. Furthermore, the decision set the stage for restrictive approaches to constitutional protection of fundamental rights affecting the poor, reproductive rights, and previously assumed rights more broadly. As we write almost thirty years later, the Hyde Amendment and the McRae decision remain unchallenged obstacles to comprehensive health care for poor women and to recognition of their full citizenship.

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