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Ban on Medicaid Abortions Begins in Michigan

December 12, 1988

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Michigan women with unwanted pregnancies and little money began to search for alternatives to state-paid abortions Monday as a voter-approved ban on Medicaid funding for the procedure took effect.

Health clinics offered discounts and no-interest loans to women unable to pay the usual abortion charge of about $250, but officials said they won’t be able to cover all of the $6 million the state had been spending on about 18,500 Medicaid abortions a year.

″We’ll be turning away some people, and we think that’s really unfortunate,″ said Margy Long, public affairs specialist at the Ann Arbor- based Planned Parenthood of Mid-Michigan.

Proponents of the law said that those who believe abortion is murder shouldn’t be forced to subsidize abortions through their tax payments, and expressed hope that it would forestall some abortions.

The Planned Parenthood affiliate is one of several offering financial aid to women seeking abortions. Long said Planned Parenthood will charge low- income women $195, the same amount Medicaid paid and about $70 less than what women with insurance are charged.

No-interest loans will be available for those who can’t come up with that much, she said.

The Reproductive Health Care Center-Planned Parenthood of Kalamazoo has raised nearly $50,000 for its emergency loan program, said Louise Safron, executive director.

″We figure it needs to be $100,000 or more,″ she said.

But Safron said even at that level, not all women will be able to obtain abortions.

″I can only go back to my experience in Ohio when it de-funded women covered by Medicaid. About 90 percent sought and received abortions and 10 percent gave up trying to find the money and continued their pregnancies. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in this state,″ she said.

The end to Medicaid abortions came 10 days after the Board of State Canvassers officially certified the Nov. 8 vote by which Michigan citizens decided, 57 percent to 43 percent, to stop the state funding.

More than 450,000 Medicaid recipients were notified by mail that abortions would no longer be paid for beginning Monday, said Bob Harris, spokesman for the Department of Social Services.

Carmen Franco, administrator of the 15 Womancare clinics in Michigan which perform a large share of the state’s abortions, said not all women may have realized the cutoff was taking effect.

Some of those who did rushed to have the procedure done last week, resulting in a patient load on Saturday nearly double the usual, she said.

″It’s quiet today because of all the rush through last week. We’ll see by the end of the week how many people really heard what was going on,″ she said.

By midday Monday, no one had sought to take advantage of the clinics’ cut- rate of $50 for Medicaid women, she said. Women with private insurance or who pay cash are charged $225.

Franco said the $50 fee probably will still be too much for some women.

″It’s those you worry about. They may get desperate and try something foolish and then you have a hospital case. In the worst case, they die,″ she said.

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