Harris v. McRae

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Harris v. McRae
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 21, 1980
Decided June 30, 1980
Full case name Harris, Secretary of Health and Human Services v. Cora McRae, et al.
Citations 448 U.S. 297 (more)
100 S. Ct. 2671; 65 L. Ed. 2d 784; 1980 U.S. LEXIS 145
Prior history McRae v. Califano, 491 F. Supp. 630 (E.D.N.Y. 1980)
Subsequent history Petition for rehearing denied September 17, 1981
Holding
States that participated in Medicaid were not required to fund medically necessary abortions for which federal reimbursement was unavailable as a result of the Hyde Amendment. The funding restrictions of the Hyde Amendment did not violate either the Fifth Amendment or the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Stewart, joined by Burger, White, Powell, Rehnquist
Concurrence White
Dissent Brennan, joined by Marshall, Blackmun
Dissent Marshall
Dissent Blackmun
Dissent Stevens

Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980),[1] was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that States that participated in Medicaid were not required to fund medically necessary abortions for which federal reimbursement was unavailable as a result of the Hyde Amendment, which restricted the use of federal funds for abortion. The Court also held that the funding restrictions of the Hyde Amendment did not violate either the Fifth Amendment or the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Background[edit]

In 1965 Congress amended Title XIX of the Social Security Act to create the Medicaid program. Medicaid is a voluntary program which provides federal funds to those states that choose to provide reimbursement for certain medical expenses for the indigent.[2]

In September, 1976, Congress began, either by amendment to the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare or by joint resolution, to ban the use of federal funds to reimburse the cost of abortions under Medicaid.[3] Initially, the only exception was where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term. These restrictions became known as the Hyde Amendment, named for the measure's original sponsor, Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde. The language of the 1980 Hyde Amendment provided,

[None] of the funds provided by this joint resolution shall be used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term; or except for such medical procedures necessary for the victims of rape or incest when such rape or incest has been reported promptly to a law enforcement agency or public health service.[4]

In 1976, following passage of the original Hyde Amendment, an action was brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York seeking to enjoin enforcement of the Amendment's restrictions.[5] Plaintiffs were Cora McRae, a New York Medicaid recipient then in the first trimester of a pregnancy that she wished to abort, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., which operated hospitals providing abortion services, officers of the Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, and the Women's Division itself.[6] McRae sought to bring the action as a class action, on behalf of other similarly situated women.[6] The district court granted the class certification motion, and also permitted Senators James Buckley and Jesse Helms and Congressman Hyde to intervene as defendants.[6]

The district court granted the injunction on January 15, 1980, finding that the Hyde Amendments violated the Fifth Amendment's Due Process clause and the First Amendment's Establishment clause.[7]

Supreme Court decision[edit]

Justice Stewart delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Burger, Justice White, Justice Powell, and Justice Rehnquist joined. Justice White wrote an opinion concurring the judgment. Justice Brennan wrote a dissent, in which Justice Marshall and Justice Blackmun joined. Justice Marshall and Justice Blackmun also authored separate dissents, as did Justice Stevens.

The Court held that states participating in the Medicaid program were not obligated to fund medically necessary abortions under Title XIX. The Court found that a woman's freedom of choice did not carry with it "a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices." The Court ruled that because the Equal Protection Clause was not a source of substantive rights and because poverty did not qualify as a "suspect classification," the Hyde Amendment did not violate the Fifth Amendment. Finally, the Court held that the coincidence of the funding restrictions of the statute with tenets of the Roman Catholic Church did not constitute an establishment of religion.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 448 U.S. 297 Full text of the opinion courtesy of Findlaw.com.
  2. ^ 448 U.S. at 301
  3. ^ 448 U.S. at 302
  4. ^ Pub. L. 96-123, § 109, 93 Stat. 926
  5. ^ McRae v. Mathews, 421 F. Supp. 533 (E.D.N.Y. 1976)
  6. ^ a b c 448 U.S. at 303
  7. ^ McRae v. Califano, 491 F. Supp. 630