The Washington Post

Defending abortion limits can cost states millions

Passing a controversial bill is just the first step. Then come the legal costs.

Just last week, Idaho was ordered to cover the $376,000 in legal fees a woman there spent on suing the state after she was charged for an illegal abortion, according to the Associated Press. Combined with its past defense of abortion limits, the state has shelled out more than $1 million since 2000.

And it’s far from alone. South Dakota’s attorney general predicted in 2011 that a law passed that year would cost anywhere from $1.75 million to $4 million to defend. And last summer, the Argus Leader reported that the state had, to that point, spent $378,000 in defense of a separate 2005 abortion law.

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (D) leads a rally in support of abortion rights in Austin. (Credit: Erich Schlegel.)

Kansas has spent $769,000 defending abortion limits from January 2011 to June of this year, according to the Associated Press. The state’s attorney general predicted an additional $500,000 cost over the next two years.

And in North Dakota, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) was given a $400,000 fund to draw from to defend that state’s abortion restrictions.

“These are complicated, complex lawsuits, so they take a lot of time,” he said in his request for funds.

“They are heavily dependent on expert medical witnesses, and we would need to make sure those are available and we have the funding to pay for them.”

Legal expenses can be costly, but there can be other financial penalties to states that pass abortion laws. In April 2012, New Hampshire’s Health and Human Services commissioner warned that an abortion law under consideration there could jeopardize the federal half of the state’s $1.4 billion annual state-federal Medicaid program.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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