Minnesota Anti-Choice Activists File Frivolous Lawsuit Against Medicaid-Funded Abortions


Since the nineties, Minnesota has been one of the few states that provided Medicaid-funded abortions. Following the 1995 case Doe v. Gomez, Minnesota’s supreme court ruled that if the state was to cover costs associated with pregnancy, it must also cover those associated with abortion, or it would place “undue financial constraints,” on women seeking out terminations, essentially limiting the right to an abortion only to those with financial means.

The state’s anti-choice politicians have taken aim at the ruling before, attempting legislation to end “taxpayer funding” of abortions in an attempt to challenge Doe, but even in the most recent attempt, when the state had the greatest number of anti-choice legislators in history, the legislation was vetoed by the governor. Now, Minnesota Family Council, one of the biggest opponents to Doe’s decision, has found a new way to try and change the law. Start a new lawsuit.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense League) have filed a suit alleging that Minnesota has wrongfuly paid for as many as 37,000 abortions since the year 1999 that should not have been covered.

According to their press release:

Minnesota can only use public funds for abortions that are defined as medically necessary, but government reporting statistics clearly demonstrate that tax dollars have paid for thousands of elective abortions for indigent women, including a disproportionate number performed on African-Americans. More than 40 percent of publicly funded abortions were carried out on African-Americans even though they account for just over 5 percent of the state’s population.

“The critical taxpayer dollars of Minnesotans should not be used for medically unnecessary abortions, nor should such funding be used to take the lives of more African-American babies than other babies,” said lead counsel Chuck Shreffler, one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.

There’s one glaring error, however — Minnesota does not say that its funds can only be used for “medically necessary” abortions. In fact, even their own anti-choice allies, groups such as Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, admit that there are no restrictions on Medicaid-funded abortion in the state.

In its 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that women have an absolute “right” to abortion. The Court also ruled that taxpayers must pay for abortions performed on women who cannot afford them. Consequently, our state’s abortion policy is the most extreme in the nation!

Why is Alliance Defending Freedom then filing such an obviously frivolous lawsuit, and one based on such a glaring lie that even their advocates know is false? Obviously, this is a stunt intended to “remind” citizens that Doe exists, and that state funding is used to pay for abortions, a fact that anti-choice factions hope will generate sympathies for their side since so many other restrictions have lost them supporters.

The press release itself is charge with racial overtones, mentioning from the start that the plaintiffs are African American and drawing up data that a large section of the Medicaid-funded abortions are provided to women of color—a statement that should surprise no one considering they represent a larger share of Medicaid recipients than they do of the state population.

Is the lawsuit an actual, meaningful challenge, or just a ploy to get “taxpayer funding” and a “abortion focuses on minorities” talking point out in the media? Considering the escalation that anti-choice activists have enacted after their massive election day losses, it’s fairly safe to assume it’s the latter.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Robin Marty on Twitter: @robinmarty

To schedule an interview with Robin Marty please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • lisac

    I would point out that Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life is as prone to lying as the ADF.  I’m not a lawyer, but I am looking at the Doe v. Gomez case right now, and it doesn’t say there is an “absolute” right to abortion.  Rather, the Court says that Minnesota has a tradition of extending greater rights than the US constitution does, and it appears to invalidate laws that restrict abortion prior to viability. (I say “appears to” because I’m not a lawyer and don’t want to imply that my reading is authoritative).  I suppose that pro-lifers call that an “absolute” right to abortion because they think that anything that is not a 100% win for them is perforce a 100% win for the other side.   But their juxtaposition of the (false) “absolute right to abortion” claim with the statement that the “taxpayers must pay” for poor women’s abortions implies that state Medicaid therefore must pay for all legal abortions.  That’s not true (again, if my reading of the court decision is correct).  Rather, the court says:

     

    We emphasize that our decision is limited to the class of plaintiffs certified by the district court and the narrow statutory provisions at issue in this case. Specifically, we hold that the State cannot refuse to provide abortions to MA/GAMC-eligible women when the procedure is necessary for therapeutic reasons. Contrary to the dissent’s allegations, this court’s decision will not permit any woman eligible for medical assistance to obtain an abortion “on demand.” Rather, under our interpretation of the Minnesota Constitution’s guaranteed right to privacy, the difficult decision whether to obtain a therapeutic abortion will not be made by the government, but will be left to the woman and her doctor.


    Substitute “medically necessary” abortion for “therapeutic abortion” and ADF’s statement is otherwise an accurate reflection of the law (again, assuming that I’m reading the case right).  That doesn’t make ADF’s claim true, because a “therapuetic abortion” does not need to be medically necessary, but rather, only beneficial (I think).  But if the ADF were able to show that “elective” abortions were being covered by state Medicaid, it would be right. 

     

    Of course, the only way to prove that the abortions were elective would be to access the patients’ records, and I suspect that is the ADF’s ultimate goal.  It potentially gives them examples of “frivolous” abortions that will somehow be leaked to Bill O’Reilly or the like and read on-air, leaving the women who have had abortions to fear that people who know them could identify them by the case, and intimidating women who are contemplating abortion, because they will be afraid that their case will eventualy end up on national TV. 

  • arachne646

    This is a good point.  Just another way to victimize women to make a point.  Also to make Minnesotans pay more to defend a frivolous lawsuit.

  • baron-davis

    In terms of that matter, a reliable litigation support services from reputable legal firms must be appointed into that issue lawsuit.

     

  • Pingback: Advocates Go to Court to Protect Medicaid Funding of Abortion Care in Minnesota | RH Reality Check