Harris v. McRae

Title XIX of the Social Security Act established the Medicaid program in 1965 to provide federal financial assistance to States that choose to reimburse certain costs of medical treatment for needy persons. Since 1976, versions of the so-called Hyde Amendment have severely limited the use of any federal funds to reimburse the cost of abortions under the Medicaid program. Actions were brought in Federal District Court by appellees (including indigent pregnant women, who sued on behalf of all women similarly situated, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., which operates hospitals providing abortion services, officers of the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church (Women’s Division), and the Women’s Division itself), seeking to enjoin enforcement of the Hyde Amendment on grounds that it violates, inter alia, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, and that, despite the Hyde Amendment, a participating State remains obligated under Title XIX to fund all medically necessary abortions. Ultimately, the District Court, granting injunctive relief, held that the Hyde Amendment had substantively amended Title XIX to relieve a State of any obligation to fund those medically necessary abortions for which federal reimbursement is unavailable, but that the Amendment violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

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