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Nevada judge blocks state from limiting Medicaid coverage for abortions

LAS VEGAS — A Nevada judge has struck down the state’s limits on Medicaid coverage for abortion services, saying the restrictions violate equal rights protections.

Clark County District Judge Erika Ballou said Tuesday from the bench that she planned to issue a written order at a later date directing the state Department of Health and Human Services to grant Medicaid coverage for all abortions.

Currently, Nevada’s Medicaid program only covers abortions for pregnancies that are life-threatening or result from rape or incest.

The judge’s order would expand abortion access in Nevada, amid ongoing legal and political fights across the country over reproductive health since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped away federal abortion protections.

Ballou, however, acknowledged that it’s likely her ruling will be appealed. A spokesperson for the Nevada attorney general’s office declined to comment on the ruling and whether the state plans to request a stay on the order amid an appeal.

The Nevada ruling also comes on the heels of a Pennsylvania high court decision in January that revived a yearslong legal battle challenging restrictions there on Medicaid coverage for abortions.

Seventeen states currently allow Medicaid to pay for abortions, including Nevada’s neighbors California and Oregon, according to KFF.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which led the effort resulting in Tuesday’s ruling, applauded the judge’s decision.

“Every person, regardless of their income level or insurance source, deserves the power to make personal medical decisions during pregnancy, including abortion,” staff attorney Rebecca Chan said in a statement.

In 2022, the same year that Roe v. Wade was overturned, Nevada voters passed a sweeping version of the Equal Rights Amendment, adding protections to the state’s constitution against discrimination based on sex.

ACLU lawyers argued that Nevada’s limitations on Medicaid abortion coverage violates the ERA, because the restrictions disproportionately discriminate against poor people and people of color.

Meanwhile, the state attorney general’s office sought to have the case dismissed on procedural grounds, according to legal filings.

In Nevada, the right to terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks is protected by state law.

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