Nevada judge rules state must include abortion in its Medicaid program

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 22, 2024 / 18:30 pm

Nevada Judge Erika Ballou ruled this week that the state must include abortion in its Medicaid program.

This ruling effectively mandates Nevada taxpayers fund abortion. It is unclear whether the state will appeal the decision.

Ballou did not give any explanation for her Tuesday ruling, only issuing a one-page order that granted a local pro-abortion group’s request to strike down the Medicaid restrictions.  

The pro-abortion group, called “Silver State Hope Fund,” which provides grants for women seeking abortions, applauded the ruling, calling it a “historic day for Nevada.”

Represented by ACLU Nevada, Silver State Hope Fund filed a suit against the state’s Health and Human Services Department in August 2023. The suit argued that the state was violating the ERA through its so-called Medicaid “coverage ban” on abortion. ACLU Nevada argued that not including abortion in Medicaid “disadvantages women because of their sex, including their reproductive capabilities.”

According to reporting by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, attorneys for the state of Nevada argued that the state has “a legitimate interest in efficiently utilizing Medicaid funds — both federal and state — to maximize the services provided to Medicaid recipients” and that “if Medicaid were to cover elective abortions, it would have to divert state money from covering other services because it cannot use federal matching dollars to pay for elective abortions.”

All funding for abortion would have to come out of the state’s budget because of the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of federal tax dollars from being used for abortion.

Archbishop George Thomas of Las Vegas told CNA that he is “dismayed” by the decision and the impact it could have on the state. 

“The Catholic Church has long advocated for access to affordable health care, including Medicaid expansion. However, by ruling Medicaid in Nevada must cover all abortions, our precious unborn in the womb — the most vulnerable — are now at a higher risk of being aborted,” he said. “I certainly hope this ruling will be appealed and overturned.”

ACLU attorney Rebecca Chan, meanwhile, celebrated the ruling, saying in a statement: “We are relieved that the court correctly recognized the severe harms of Nevada’s ban on Medicaid coverage for abortion, which directly violates the recently passed state Equal Rights Amendment.” 

“Every person, regardless of their income level or insurance source, deserves the power to make personal medical decisions during pregnancy, including abortion,” she said. 

The Nevada ERA, passed in a referendum vote in 2022, added a section to the Nevada Constitution that said: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this State or any of its political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin.”

There is an ongoing national push to add a similar version of the ERA to the U.S. Constitution, something the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has firmly opposed. The bishops have voiced concerns that the language could be used to claim a constitutional right to an abortion or could be used to infringe on religious liberty. 

In 2023 Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement speaking out against this version of the ERA. 

“The Catholic faith teaches that women and men are created with equal dignity, and we support that being reflected in law. The proposed ‘Equal Rights Amendment,’ however, would likely create a sweeping new nationwide right to abortion at any stage, at taxpayer expense, and eliminate even modest protections for women’s health and the lives of preborn children,” he said.

Burbidge added that the measure “could also pose grave problems for women’s privacy and athletic and other opportunities, and negatively impact religious freedom.”


Peter Pinedo

Peter Pinedo is a DC Correspondent for CNA. A graduate of Franciscan University, Peter previously worked for Texas Right to Life. He is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.

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