CALIFORNIA: FEDERAL JUDGE UPHOLDS PRENATAL CARE CUTS
A federal judge in San Francisco Tuesday upheld Gov. PeteThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Wilson's (R) "plans to cut state-funded prenatal care for tens of
thousands of illegal immigrants in California," the
Los Angeles Times reports. Wilson, "who has fought for years to
ban" public aid to illegal immigrants, intends to stop the
prenatal benefits on "January 1 for new applicants and on
February 1 for current recipients." In a ruling similar to a
recent California Supreme Court decision , U.S. District Judge
Susan Illston rejected a lawsuit "filed in June by eight pregnant
illegal immigrants." The plaintiffs "alleged that last year's
sweeping federal welfare law requiring state governments to end
most nonemergency aid to illegal immigrants violated states'
rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution." Illston ruled that
the 1996 law was clearly designed to withhold most public aid
from illegal immigrants in an effort to "remove an incentive for
illegal immigration." Wilson called the ruling "a common-sense
decision supporting the state taxpayers who for too long have
borne the costs of providing benefits to those who have no legal
rights to be in this country."
Prior to the ruling, California's Medi-Cal program allotted
state funding "for checkups and other prenatal aid for illegal
immigrant women." In the last two years, "that assistance cost
$83.7 million and helped about 70,000 women." Critics of
Wilson's move contend that measures to restrict such assistance
for illegal immigrants will ultimately result in higher costs for
taxpayers because "infant mortality, birth abnormalities and
illness, and ... emergency room visits" will increase.
NOT OVER YET
Tuesday's ruling does not necessarily mean "the end of
subsidized prenatal care for illegal immigrants" because there
are two more challenges pending in state courts and "another
federal lawsuit is being contemplated." Thomas Saenz, counsel
for the plaintiffs affected by Illston's ruling, suggested that a
possible "strategy for future suits [would be] to challenge the
benefits denial as a violation of equal-protection guarantees in
the Constitution" (McDonnell, 12/18).