1980 June 30

No Federal Funding of Abortion: Harris v. McRea


The Supreme Court on this day held the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, which barred any federal funds for abortion. The Hyde Amendment was first enacted on September 29, 1976, and subsequently revised and reenacted a number of times. The Supreme Court decided the issue by a narrow 5-4 vote.

The principal vehicle for federal funding of abortions was Medicaid, which provided medical services for the poor.

The Hyde Amendment was one of the first important limitations on abortion following the historic Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973 striking down state criminal abortion laws.

The Court: we hold that a State that participates in the Medicaid program is not obligated under Title XIX to continue to fund those medically necessary abortions for which federal reimbursement is unavailable under the Hyde Amendment. We further hold that the funding restrictions of the Hyde Amendment violate neither the Fifth Amendment nor the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It is also our view that the appellees lack standing to raise a challenge to the Hyde Amendment under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

The 1980 version of the Hyde Amendment read:

“[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.”

Learn more about the early history of abortion in America: James C. Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800–1900 (1978)

Learn more at the Planned Parenthood web sitehttp://www.plannedparenthood.org/

Check out a timeline on abortion rights history: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

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