Maher v. Roe
432 U.S. 464 (1977)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Maher v. Roe, 432 U.S. 464 (1977)

Maher v. Roe

No. 75-1440

Argued January 11, 1977

Decided June 20, 1977

432 U.S. 464

Syllabus

Appellees, two indigent women who were unable to obtain a physician's certificate of medical necessity, brought this action attacking the validity of a Connecticut Welfare Department regulation that limits state Medicaid benefits for first trimester abortions to those that are "medically necessary." A three-judge District Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids the exclusion of nontherapeutic abortions from a state welfare program that generally subsidizes the medical expenses incident to pregnancy and childbirth. The court found implicit in Roe v. Wade,410 U. S. 113, and Doe v. Bolton,410 U. S. 179, the view that "abortion and childbirth . . . are simply two alternative medical methods of dealing with pregnancy. . . ."

Held:

1. The Equal Protection Clause does not require a State participating in the Medicaid program to pay the expenses incident to nontherapeutic abortions for indigent women simply because it has made a policy choice to pay expenses incident to childbirth. Pp. 432 U. S. 469-480.

(a) Financial need alone does not identify a suspect class for purposes of equal protection analysis. See San Antonio School Dist. v. Rodriguez,411 U. S. 1, 411 U. S. 29; Dandridge v. Williams,397 U. S. 471. Pp. 432 U. S. 470-471.

(b) The Connecticut regulation does not impinge upon the fundamental right of privacy recognized in Roe, supra, that protects a woman from unduly burdensome interference with her freedom to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. That right implies no limitation on a State's authority to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds. An indigent woman desiring an abortion is not disadvantaged by Connecticut's decision to fund childbirth; she continues as before to be dependent on private abortion services. Pp. 432 U. S. 471-474.

(c) A State is not required to show a compelling interest for its policy choice to favor normal childbirth. Pp. 432 U. S. 475-477.

(d) Connecticut's regulation is rationally related to and furthers its "strong and legitimate interest in encouraging normal childbirth,"

Page 432 U. S. 465

Beal v. Doe, ante at 432 U. S. 446. The subsidizing of costs incident to childbirth is a rational means of encouraging childbirth. States, moreover, have a wide latitude in choosing among competing demands for limited public funds. Pp. 432 U. S. 478-480.

2. Since it is not unreasonable for a State to insist upon a prior showing of medical necessity to insure that its money is being spent only for authorized purposes, the District Court erred in invalidating the requirements of prior written request by the pregnant woman and prior authorization by the Department of Social Services for abortions. Although similar requirements are not imposed for other medical procedures, such procedures do not involve the termination of a potential human life. P. 432 U. S. 480.

408 F.Supp. 660, reversed and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring statement, post, p. 432 U. S. 481. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 432 U. S. 482. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, ante, p. 432 U. S. 454. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, ante, p. 432 U. S. 462.

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