Martha F. Davis

Document Type



In the United States, government funding of legal abortion for low-income women has been uniquely "de-linked" from the fundamental right to an abortion. While the underlying right to an abortion has been repeatedly reaffirmed, federal courts have been unreceptive to any imposition of an affirmative governmental obligation to fund the exercise of the right. In contrast, the human rights framework, increasingly adopted worldwide by other national and regional courts and legislatures, has supported expansion of government funding of legal abortion. The domestic U.S. treatment of abortion funding is illuminated by examining several recent transnational decisions-from Colombia, Mexico, and the European Court of Human Rights, among others-in which legal abortion, framed as a matter of human rights and human dignity, led to expansion of public funding. In particular, these examples indicate that in a context where a national public health plan was already in place, and where the provision of health care was already viewed as a government responsibility, the extension of health care coverage to include newly legal abortion procedures generated little controversy.

Date of Authorship for this Version



abortion rights, contraceptive rights, Law, Women

Original Citation

Originally published in North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 88, No. 5, pp. 1657-1686, June 2010., Reprinted with permission of the North Carolina Law Review.