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Louisiana puts its ‘Personhood’ bill on hold fear of losing Medicaid money

This week, Louisiana’s legislature sidetracked a bill that would basically outlaw all abortions in the state. The bill would criminalize all abortions and define them as “feticide.” Louisiana is joining Mississippi in seeking “personhood” rights for fetuses. These proposed laws are aimed at banning abortions for all cases, including rape and incest. #

The bill was stalled because it would repeal language that allows the state to fund abortions “whenever the abortion is being sought to terminate a pregnancy resulting from an alleged act of rape … from an alleged act of incest and all of the requirements … [or] to save the life of the mother.” #

Federal law under the Hyde Amendment requires that states allow women to seek abortions for such cases, as well as allow the state to cover them. Because Louisiana’s law does not provide that allowance, the state could forfeit billions in federal Medicaid dollars. #

According to the The Times-Picayune, “at issue is the bill’s restriction on Medicaid covering abortions in cases of rape or incest. The well-publicized Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal money from financing elective abortions, but the same amendment and federal rules require that the states, which administer the joint state-federal insurance program for the poor, cover termination procedures for victims of rape or incest.” #

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. John LaBruzzo’s, has dismissed fears that federal agencies would deny the state its funds. However, the federal government has already shown that it is willing to withhold money from states denying services to women. Recently, Medicaid Administrator Donald M. Berwick from U.S. Health and Human Services told Indiana officials that they could not defund Planned Parenthood. Indiana is poised to lose $4 billion in Medicaid funds if it continues with those plans. #

A recent press release from Personhood USA stated that the Legislature’s fears that the law does not comply with federal laws is a “faulty notion”: #

Objecting to the motion to recommit, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John LaBruzzo, reminded his colleagues that many states have had similar issues. He noted, “Not one time has one state lost one penny of Medicaid dollars — not once.” #

LaBruzzo concluded by reiterating that the Hyde Amendment does not compel states to fund abortion, “There is nothing in statute of law that says, ‘The penalty is that we’re going to pull all of your money.’ It’s permissive. If the rape and incest exception applies, then you may or may not. My bill says you may not.” #

Florida could possibly see a similar “personhood” amendment. There is an initiative to put an amendment that “applies the term ‘person’ to every human being from the beginning of biological development” on Florida’s 2012 ballot. Besides a host of legal complications, if voters eventually do approve such a measure, federal Medicaid dollars might also be in question. #

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