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Low-Income Women's Access to Abortion

Illinois allows women eligible for state medical assistance for general health care to obtain public funds for abortion:  (1) in the professional judgment of a licensed physician, the life of the woman would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term; (2) the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest; or (3) to protect the woman's health.  Ill. Dep't of Pub. Aid, Medical Assistance Program, Handbook for Physicians, ch. 200, § A-223.8 (Aug 2011), at

The abortion payment application form further defines the life exception as an abortion necessary to preserve the life of a woman endangered by a physical disorder, injury, or illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.  Ill. Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services: Abortion Payment Application, at

Unconstitutional and unenforceable statutes provide that a woman eligible for state medical assistance may not obtain public funds to pay for abortion services unless the procedure is necessary to preserve her life or the life of her unborn child.  305 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/5-5 (Original Statute Enacted 1967; Relevant Provision Enacted 1977; Last Amended 2004), 5/6-1 (Original Statute Enacted 1967; Relevant Provision Enacted 1977; Last Amended 2002).

A court held that these laws violate the Illinois constitution and has issued an order prohibiting their enforcement to the extent that they bar funding for abortion care necessary to preserve the woman's health.  Doe v. Wright, No. 91 CH 1958 (Ill. Cir. Ct. Dec. 2, 1994).

In addition, a court held that these laws conflict with federal law prohibiting participating states from excluding abortion from the Medicaid program in cases of rape or incest as well as life endangerment, and has issued an injunction prohibiting its enforcement to the extent that it conflicts with federal law.  Planned Parenthood v. Wright, No. 94 C 6886 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 6, 1994).  See also Williams v. Zbaraz, 448 U.S. 358 (1980) (holding that Medicaid does not require a state to pay for medically necessary abortion services that are not covered by federal law and that state law does not violate the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution).

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