Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

ACLU challenges Michigan’s ban on Medicaid-funded abortions

A doctor's office with medical equipment
Michigan voters in 2022 extended a state constitutional protection to abortion, but the fine contours of access continue to be fought over. (Shutterstock)
  • The ACLU of Michigan is challenging Michigan’s ban on using Medicaid dollars for abortion procedures, calling it unconstitutional
  • The group contends the ban creates a two-tiered system between wealthy and low-income women
  • The suit is the latest instance of abortion rights advocates taking to the Court of Claims to challenge state law on the procedure

Michigan’s ban on using Medicaid to pay for abortions came under fire Thursday as members of the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law in the state Court of Claims.

The suit, brought on behalf of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Kalamazoo, argues that while Michigan’s Medicaid insurance program provides “comprehensive coverage” for reproductive health care, it notably does not cover abortion except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest.

“In a state that has boldly fought back against attacks on reproductive rights, this is unacceptable,” Bonsitu Kitaba, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement. “We will continue to fight to ensure that abortion care is available to all.” 


It’s the second time this week Michigan abortion laws have landed before the Court of Claims. On Tuesday, Judge Sima Patel suspended the state’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period prior to obtaining an abortion, among other things.

The ACLU’s new lawsuit names both the state of Michigan and its Department of Health and Human Services as defendants. 


The passage of Proposal 3 of 2022 — which guaranteed the right to an abortion in the state constitution — should supersede Michigan’s ban on Medicaid-funded abortions, ACLU attorneys argued.

Such a ban on care is “burdensome and discriminatory,” lawyers wrote in the complaint, claiming the law “infringes on the autonomous decision-making of Medicaid-eligible patients, destabilizes lower income families’ fragile economic situations, and, in some cases, coerces pregnant people into carrying pregnancies against their will."

The 1987 law that prohibits Medicaid-funded abortions was upheld by Michigan voters through a ballot referendum the following year. 

Right to Life of Michigan, which opposes legal abortion, pushed back against the lawsuit on Thursday, arguing that allowing Medicaid dollars for abortions would force Michiganders opposed to the procedure to still pay for it. 

In a statement from the organization, President Amber Roseboom accused “radical activists appeasing their big money donors and special interest groups” of driving the new legal fight. 

Abortion rights advocates “are again appealing to the courts to achieve what they failed to garner support for in the legislative process,” Roseboom added, “now hoping to force Michigan taxpayers, already facing the financial burdens of high inflation, to pay for other people’s abortions through Medicaid dollars.”

But the lawsuit contends the ban has created a two-tiered system, wherein more affluent women may have private insurance to cover abortion services while low-income women must pay out of pocket to access the same coverage.

As a result, the policy most heavily impacts pregnant people of color, according to the ACLU, and is counter to the values of groups like the YWCA of Kalamazoo. The organization runs a reproductive health fund “committed to ensuring comprehensive reproductive and child care for low-income Michiganders,” according to the lawsuit. 

Of the 177 individuals the fund supported by providing abortion care and services during the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years, 156 self-reported as being enrolled in Medicaid, the suit notes. 

If the ACLU lawsuit succeeds, it would only impact state dollars that support Medicaid insurance. The federal Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal funding for abortions since 1977 except in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother.


In a statement on the lawsuit, YWCA Kalamazoo CEO Susan Rosas said that “empowering women and promoting maternal and child health is core” to the organization’s mission. “That includes doing all we can to ensure that people with low incomes have equitable access to abortion care.”

It’s not the first time the YWCA of Kalamazoo has waded into choppy political waters.

Last year, it asked county commissioners for $100,000 to support the nation’s only YWCA “comprehensive reproductive health fund” — intended to help county residents with the financial costs of accessing abortion and gender-affirming care, along with doula services. 

Likewise, the ACLU has taken a central role in trying to shape abortion access in Michigan. In March, it called for ending Michigan parental-consent law — a law that affects between 700 to 800 underage patients each year. That law remains in place.

How impactful was this article for you?

Michigan Health Watch

Michigan Health Watch is made possible by generous financial support from:

Please visit the About page for more information, and subscribe to Michigan Health Watch.

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now