Question List

Q. Does Roe require states to pay for abortions or compel health care providers to perform them?

The question whether the government is required to fund abortions was not before the Court in Roe and Doe. But because of the far-reaching nature of the decisions, the assumption often was made that such a requirement existed. In subsequent rulings, however, the Court has consistently held that the abortion "right" created by Roe does not constitute an entitlement to have the procedure paid for or performed by the state. In fact, the statute under consideration in Doe contained a conscience clause for hospitals and the Court relied on the clause in part, in its decision striking down the requirement of the hospital abortion committee. The Court noted that the hospital was free not to perform abortions at all.1

Since Roe and Doe, the Court has upheld numerous limits on the use of public funds, facilities and personnel for abortions, including the following:

  • a state Medicaid plan that limits funding for first-trimester abortions to those that are "medically necessary";2
  • a policy of a city-owned hospital to perform abortions only in the case of a threat of grave physiological injury or maternal death;3
  • federal government restrictions set forth in the Hyde Amendment on the use of Medicaid funds for abortions;4
  • a state law providing medical assistance for abortions necessary to preserve the life of the mother but not for other "medically necessary" abortions;5
  • a state law prohibiting state employees, in the course of their employment, to perform or assist in abortions not necessary to save the mother's life and banning such abortions in public hospitals;6
  • a federal regulation prohibiting Title X projects from engaging in abortion counseling, referrals, and advocacy.7
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