Six days after a federal judge ordered the State of Virginia to resume paying for abortions for indigent women, the State Board of Health has adopted a new policy warning physicians against using "subterfuge" to try to obtain Medicaid funds for abortion.
The board unanimously adopted a resolution Wednesday stating it is adamantly opposed to doctors performing abortions with state funds" for insubstantial mental health, or social reasons in cases in which there is no immediate threat to the mother's life."
"That means to me something a lot more restrictive than what the judge said the other day," said Carol Werner of National Abortion Rigths Action League.
Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. ordered the state last Friday to resume payments for necessary medical therapeutic abortions" for indigent women under the state's Medicaid program.
Although the Virginia legislature voted March 9 to cut off payments for abortions unless the mother's life was in danger, Bryan said that women who need therapeutic abortions would be irreparably harmed if he did not order the state to resume paying for them. His ruling came in the form of a temporary restraining order. The case is scheduled to be heard May 16.
In the meantime, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office said the new "no subterfuge" of the State Board of Health would not go into effect until after Bruan issues his decision.
In adopting the resolution, the board said it wanted to clarify its position on abortions in light of recent legislative action and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states could decide whether they would reimburse indigent women for abortions.
The resolution passed Wednesday by the state board of health is important because the board is the governing body for the Health Department, which, inturn, pays doctors for medical procedures performed under the Medicaid program.
Virginia is one of 21 states that provide Medicaid payments for abortions only when the life of the mother is in danger, according to Cory Richards of Planned Parenthood.
According to Richards, 16 states and the District of Columbia pay for all or most abortions. Nine states have a policy similar to the federal government's in which funds can be used for abortions where the mother's life is in danger, where two physicians certify that severe physical health will occur and where rape and incest is involved.
There are three states that pay through the Medicaid program for abortions involving the mother's life, or rape and incest, said Richards.