Minn. Judge Dismisses Suit Claiming State Illegally Covered Abortion Costs

May 7, 2013 — A Minnesota judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged the state incorrectly used public funds to pay for more than 37,000 abortions for low-income women who did not qualify for abortion coverage under state laws, the AP/Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

In the lawsuit filed last November, the Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the state was not adequately reviewing whether abortions for women who receive medical assistance were needed for "therapeutic reasons" -- meaning they were medically necessary or the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest -- in violation of state laws and previous court decisions (AP/Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 5/6).

According to the group, state health department data show that 10,044 of the total 47,095 abortions paid for by the state from 1999 to 2011 met the requirements.

The lawsuit requested an injunction to stop all state-funded abortion coverage until the state proves that funds were not misused. It also asked the court to overturn an injunction enforcing the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision, which held the state cannot deny abortion care to women receiving medical assistance "when the procedure is necessary for therapeutic reasons" (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/30/12).

Details of Ruling

On Thursday, Ramsey County Chief District Judge Kathleen Gearin dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning that the group cannot file the challenge again.

Gearin said the state Department of Human Services' process of relying on a physician's discretion that an abortion is for therapeutic reasons is "neither illegal nor unreasonable." She noted that ruling otherwise could cause the court to become "excessively entangled" in the department's processes.

"The procedure set up by DHS [in] the exercise of its discretion may not be perfect, but it does ensure that the woman's right to privacy in consulting with her doctor about a difficult decision is protected," Gearin concluded (AP/Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 5/6).