Following Roe, states across the nation grappled with how to integrate the right to abortion into their Medicaid programs. In South Dakota, officials decided that low-income women did not have the right to abortion under Medicaid. The National Health Law Program and our co-counsels at Black Hills Legal Services argued before the District Court for the District of South Dakota that by providing Medicaid benefits to eligible women who chose to carry their pregnancies to term, while denying Medicaid benefits to eligible pregnant women who elect to have an abortion, South Dakota had created a classification in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court ruled in favor of our plaintiff, but it was subsequently vacated on appeal by the Supreme Court in Westby v. Doe. Nonetheless, it is a significant ruling in the battle for Medicaid coverage of all reproductive services. A battle that continues to this day.
1974 – Doe v. Westby: Fighting for Reproductive Rights in Medicaid Timelines: National Health Law Program Timeline