Physicians and clinics sued the Commissioner of Health sued, claiming that Texas Medical Assistance Program’s (“TMAP”) abortion funding restrictions for indigent women violated their constitutional rights under the Equal Rights Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the Texas Constitution, and their rights to privacy. TMAP was prohibited from authorizing abortion services without matching federal funds. The relevant federal law, the Hyde Amendment, prevented TMAP from funding abortions unless the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or placed the woman in danger of death. The plaintiffs argued that the restriction constituted sex discrimination because the state funded virtually all medically necessary services for men while refusing to fund abortions that are medically necessary even though the woman is not at risk of death. The Supreme Court held that although any restriction related to abortion would only affect women, TMAP’s restriction was not “on the basis of sex,” but rather due to the nature of abortion as a medical procedure involving potential life, which has no similar treatment method. The Court noted that other than medically necessary abortions, TMAP funded virtually all other medical treatment for women, and funded abortions to the extent that matching federal funds were available. The Court held that the discouragement of abortion through funding restrictions cannot, by itself, be considered purposeful discrimination against women as a class. The Court recognized the state’s interest in encouraging childbirth over abortion and held that the right to choose an abortion does not translate into a state obligation to subsidize abortions. The Court thus held that the funding restrictions did not violate the Texas Constitution, reversing the Court of Appeals and entering judgment for the defendant.
Bell v. Low Income Women of Texas