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Zbaraz v. Quern

decided: February 13, 1979.

DAVID ZBARAZ, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
ARTHUR F. QUERN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 77 C 4522 - Alfred Y. Kirkland, Judge.

Before Cummings, Sprecher and Bauer, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cummings

This class action was brought under the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983) to enjoin enforcement of a 1977 Illinois statute withdrawing medical assistance funding in Illinois for all abortions except those "necessary for the preservation of the life of the (pregnant) woman."*fn1 Plaintiffs do not object to the refusal to fund purely elective abortions, and challenge the limitation on funding only as to medically necessary abortions. They assert that the Illinois statute denies them and the classes they represent*fn2 rights guaranteed by Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid) (42 U.S.C. § 1396 Et seq.) and by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Plaintiffs are two doctors whose practice includes the performance for indigent women of medically necessary abortions, most of which are not necessary for the preservation of their lives; the Chicago Welfare Rights Organization, whose members include women dependent on Illinois medical assistance benefits; and Jane Doe, an indigent woman requiring a medically necessary abortion but one that is not necessary to save her life. The principal defendant is Arthur F. Quern, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, the state agency charged with administering the medical assistance programs and with enforcement of the statute in question. Two other doctors were allowed to intervene as defendants in the court below.

In December 1977 the district court issued an order abstaining from consideration of the case. Plaintiffs appealed and this Court granted them an injunction pending appeal against enforcement of the Illinois statute insofar as it prohibits state funding for therapeutic abortions.*fn3

In March 1978 we reversed the district court's abstention order but did not resolve the merits of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Zbaraz v. Quern, 7 Cir., 572 F.2d 582. Thereafter, the district court held that Title XIX of the Social Security Act and the regulations thereunder require Illinois to provide medical assistance funding for all therapeutic abortions. Judge Kirkland concluded that the Hyde Amendment on which defendants rely does not call for a contrary result.*fn4 Because the district court resolved the case on statutory grounds, plaintiffs' constitutional challenges were not resolved. The district court permanently enjoined defendants from denying payments under the Illinois medical assistance programs to the plaintiff physicians "and any other recognized and legal medical providers, for the rendition of medical services to indigent pregnant women for therapeutic abortions * * *." This injunction is still in effect.

This opinion starts with a caveat. This panel is interpreting Congressional and Illinois General Assembly laws as they are written. Our line of duty is to construe those laws, neither to condone nor criticize them. Moreover, we do not start with a clean slate, for six years ago the Supreme Court under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment invalidated penal laws that restrict legal abortions to those "procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother." Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 164, 93 S. Ct. 705, 732, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147. Very recently the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the right to secure an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is a fundamental right. It also stressed that the abortion decision is primarily a medical one and emphasized the central role of the physician in helping to reach that decision. Colautti v. Franklin, 439 U.S. 379, 99 S. Ct. 675, 58 L. Ed. 2d 596. With those admonitions in mind, our task is readily charted.

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has recently ruled on a challenge to the Massachusetts abortion funding law that is nearly identical to the challenge mounted here to the similar Illinois law. Preterm, Inc. v. Dukakis, 591 F.2d 121 (1st Circuit, decided January 15, 1979). We agree with Judge Coffin's majority opinion in that case.*fn5

The First Circuit held in Preterm that Title XIX of the Social Security Act does not require funding of all medical care which is deemed "necessary" by the treating physician, but that it does prohibit a state from singling out medically necessary abortions as a category of care which would be funded only under certain narrow circumstances. The Preterm court concluded that for a state so to discriminate in the care it provided would conflict with the statutory provision that state-established standards for determining the extent of medical assistance should be "reasonable" and "consistent with the objectives" of the Medicaid Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(17). These objectives include furnishing medical assistance "to meet the costs of necessary medical services." 42 U.S.C. § 1396. In addition, the regulations promulgated pursuant to Title XIX provide that "the State may not arbitrarily deny or reduce the amount, duration, or scope of, such services to an otherwise eligible individual solely because of the diagnosis, type of illness or condition." 45 C.F.R. § 449.10(a)(5)(i).

We agree with the conclusion of the court in Preterm that limiting Medicaid assistance to life-threatening abortions "violate(s) the purposes of the Act and discriminate(s) in a proscribed fashion" (slip op. 126).*fn6 See also White v. Beal, 555 F.2d 1146 (3d Cir. 1977); Rush v. Parham, 440 F. Supp. 383, 390-391 (N.D.Ga.1977). The First Circuit was unanimous that the Medicaid Act requires participating states to provide "medically necessary" abortions under their plans. Judge Bownes' point of disagreement with the majority was that in his view the Hyde Amendment does not permit participating states to limit necessary medical services for abortion to those set forth in that amendment. However, we agree with the conclusion of the majority in Preterm that the Hyde Amendment alters Title XIX in such a way as to allow states to limit funding to the categories of abortions specified in that amendment.

The Hyde Amendment is a provision which has been enacted in varying forms into the appropriations bills funding the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the Labor Department for fiscal years 1977, 1978 and 1979. The fiscal 1978 and 1979 versions of it provide:

"None of the funds contained in this Act shall be used to perform abortions except when the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term; or except for such medical procedures necessary for the victims of rape or incest, when such rape or incest have been reported promptly to a law enforcement agency or public health service, or except in those instances where severe and long-lasting physical health damage to the mother would result if the pregnancy were carried to term when so determined by two physicians." (See note 4 Supra.)

Since, like the First Circuit, we have held that Title XIX prohibits discrimination in funding based on type of condition, the Hyde Amendment by singling out abortions for funding under only certain narrowly defined circumstances is in conflict with the substantive provisions of the Medicaid Act. It therefore becomes necessary to determine whether the Hyde Amendment was intended to amend the provisions of Title XIX or merely to prohibit the expenditure of federal funds. Under the latter interpretation, the states would be obligated to provide for medically necessary abortions for which federal funds would not be available.*fn7

As indicated, we agree with Judge Coffin's opinion in Preterm and conclude that the Hyde Amendment did amend Title XIX. We are most reluctant to conclude that Congress has used an appropriations measure to effect such a change in the law, both because this reading enhances the likelihood of confusing and disruptive annual changes in the substantive law and because the Supreme Court has recently disapproved of so ...


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