Pa. to defy directive on Medicaid for abortions after rape, incest

January 19, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania said yesterday that he would defy a federal directive requiring state Medicaid programs to pay for abortions in certain cases of rape or incest.

He said the federal government had exceeded its authority in trying to override a state law permitting such payment only when the rape or incest has been reported to local law-enforcement or health officials.

Pennsylvania thus joins Utah in vowing to disregard parts of the Clinton administration directive. Louisiana officials have also expressed doubts about the directive's legality and are studying whether to follow it.

Medicaid officials in many states have objected to the directive, saying that the federal government did not consult them before issuing it on Dec. 28.

The directive says a 1993 law requires Medicaid coverage of abortions in cases of rape or incest. Many state officials say the law permits, but does not require, such coverage. Medicaid is financed jointly by the federal government and the states.

A Pennsylvania law says public money may be spent for abortions only when the procedure is needed to save the life of a pregnant woman or when rape or incest "has been reported promptly to a law enforcement agency or public health service."

Mr. Casey asserted that the federal government had "exceeded its authority in attempting to nullify our state law." Congress, he said, had not expressed any intention to override state reporting requirements.

Referring to the federal directive, Mr. Casey said, "I have no intention of following it."

State policies on Medicaid coverage for abortions vary widely.

The federal directive says that state reporting requirements may not be used to deny Medicaid payments for abortions in cases of rape or incest. Medicaid will cover abortion if the treating doctor certifies that a woman "was unable, for physical or psychological reasons," to report the rape or incest, the directive says.

Mr. Casey, an outspoken opponent of abortion, and officials in other states said they had no legal authority to disregard state laws that require the reporting of rape and incest as a condition for Medicaid coverage for abortion.

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