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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the appellees)
(Argued the cause for the appellant)
Location: Congress
Facts of the Case 

In 1965, Congress established the Medicaid program, via Title XIX of the Social Security Act, to provide federal financial assistance to states that chose to reimburse certain costs of medical treatment for needy persons. Beginning in 1976, Congress passed a number of versions of the "Hyde Amendment" that severely limited the use of federal funds to reimburse the cost of abortions under the Medicaid program. Cora McRae, a pregnant Medicaid recipient, challenged the Amendment and took action against Patricia R. Harris, Secretary of Health and Human Services.


Did the Hyde Amendment violate the right to privacy, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, or the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment?

Decision: 5 votes for Harris, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Medicaid--provisions of the Social Security Act

No. The Court held that states participating in the Medicaid program were not obligated to fund medically necessary abortions under Title XIX. The Court found that a woman's freedom of choice did not carry with it "a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices." The Court ruled that because the Equal Protection Clause was not a source of substantive rights and because poverty did not qualify as a "suspect classification," the Hyde Amendment did not violate the Fifth Amendment. Finally, the Court held that the coincidence of the funding restrictions of the statute with tenets of the Roman Catholic Church did not constitute an establishment of religion.

Cite this Page
HARRIS v. MCRAE. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1979/1979_79_1268>.
HARRIS v. MCRAE, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1979/1979_79_1268 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"HARRIS v. MCRAE," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1979/1979_79_1268.