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Arkansas Governor Says Deal Will Save Abortion Funding

August 13, 1996

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Gov. Mike Huckabee said Monday that he remains bound by a state constitutional ban on most abortion funding, but would let a third party pay for the abortion of a 15-year-old incest victim.

The compromise proposal follows Huckabee’s announcement Friday that the state would not pay its $106 share of the $417 abortion, which a clinic claimed it was entitled to by federal law.

And lawyers for Little Rock Family Planning Services, which performed the abortion Aug. 1, said the clinic wouldn’t accept a third-party arrangement.

Federal law requires states that receive Medicaid to pay for abortions for poor women in cases of rape or incest. States that refuse to pay for such abortions could become ineligible for Medicaid funds, which amount to $1 billion a year in Arkansas.

But Huckabee is being sued to uphold an Arkansas Constitution clause that forbids abortion payments unless the mother’s life is in danger.

``This is just a bridge, if you will, and the ultimate solution is for the Legislature to place a rewritten version of Amendment 68 on the ballot,″ Huckabee spokesman Rex Nelson said. ``The governor’s fear was that we were not complying with the state constitution.″

There was no word on how the fund would be administered. Nelson said the state’s only involvement would be to determine whether a woman is eligible. The state would then refer the claim to the third party, he said.

The move is not unprecedented. The federal Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that other states use third parties to administer some Medicaid-related programs, though none as volatile as abortion.

Clinic director Carolyn Izard initially said the deal was amenable, as long as it ensures abortion funding is available for rape and incest victims.

But the clinic’s lawyers said the agreement was not acceptable and, after speaking to her lawyers, Izard said having a check written by the state of Arkansas was more important than receiving a payment from any private fund.

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