The Impact of Public Abortion Funding Decisions on lndigent Women: A Proposal to Reform State Statutory and Constitutional Abortion Funding Provisions

This Note argues that state legislatures should relax funding restrictions on abortions for indigent women and proposes specific mechanisms to ensure the equal protection of indigent women in the abortion context. Part I briefly recounts the history of federal funding for abortions, from the liberal post-Roe funding scheme to the restrictive funding arrangements that have prevailed since the early 1980s. Part II surveys the existing literature and discusses patterns of state funding and the impact of funding restrictions on indigent women seeking abortions. This literature shows that the tightening of state funding policies subsequent to the federal Medicaid restrictions has inflicted physical and economic hardships on these women. Part III examines state funding trends by reviewing the states’ legislative, judicial and popular responses to the abortion funding issue. Although a few state courts have overturned restrictive state laws and mandated the funding of abortions for indigent women and a few state legislatures have provided for such funding, the majority of states have imposed and maintained severe restrictions upon the funding of Medicaid abortions. Part IV argues that it is the states’ responsibility to fund abortions sought by indigent women to prevent the negative economic impact and detriment to health and welfare that occurs when these women are prevented from terminating their pregnancies. This Part concludes by recommending a model state constitutional amendment and a statute that state legislatures could enact to ensure that welfare agencies exercise their responsibility to fund abortions for indigent women to protect the rights of indigent women to choose between childbirth and abortion.