White House may delay rule on Medicaid abortion funds

January 05, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration is weighing whether to delay a requirement that states help pay for abortions in cases of rape or incest because the directive has placed some states in the untenable position of either violating their own laws or losing federal Medicaid funds, officials said yesterday.

"They set these states up to be sued," said Ray Hanley, head of the Arkansas Medicaid program and chairman of the State Medicaid Directors Association.

The controversy arose from a debate over what Congress intended last year when it loosened the ban on federal funding for abortions in cases of rape and incest. Previously, federal Medicaid funds -- which must be partially matched by states

-- had been provided only where a woman's life was threatened.

In a directive last week, the administration said it now deems abortions in rape and incest cases as "medically necessary," to be paid for with Medicaid funds.

Medicaid, a program providing medical services for the poor, receives half its funds from the federal government but is run by the states.

In a letter to the federal Health Care Financing Administration, Mr. Hanley contended that the administration's directive had gone beyond the intent of Congress -- which he insisted was merely to give states the option of paying for abortions for low-income rape and incest victims.

At least 10 states would have to change their laws to carry out the administration's order, Mr. Hanley said.

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