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Williams v. Zbaraz (1980)

In Brief

Williams v. Zbaraz (1980): Court rules that states may limit Medicaid payments to life-saving abortions

The Illinois legislature passed a statute prohibiting state Medicaid payments for all abortions except where necessary to save the life of the mother. Two abortion doctors, a welfare organization, and a pregnant woman filed suit claiming the state's failure to pay for "medically necessary" but not life-saving abortions violated the federal Social Security Act and denied indigent women equal protection of the laws under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court disagreed. Referring to its decision upholding the Hyde Amendment in Harris v. McCrae, the Court concluded that a state is not required to pay for "medically necessary" but not life-saving abortions. The Court also concluded that the Illinois law, like the Hyde Amendment in Harris, did not violate equal protection rights even though it authorized payment for some "medically necessary" health services but not others.



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