New Mexico Right to Choose NARAL v. Johnson

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Determined whether the New Mexico Constitution's Equal Rights Amendment prohibited a state ban on Medicaid funding for medically necessary abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity.

Full Case Title: 

New Mexico Right to Choose NARAL v. Johnson, 986 P.2d 450 (New Mexico 1999)


  • Reproductive Rights
  • Public Benefits and Poverty
  • Authored Amicus Brief


Summary of the Case

New Mexico promulgated a regulation limiting Medicaid coverage to those abortions necessary because the pregnancy is life threatening or the result of rape or incest.

Our Role in the Case

In a challenge to the regulation's constitutionality under New Mexico's state constitution, Legal Momentum submitted an amicus brief to the New Mexico Supreme Court on behalf of the New Mexico Women's Bar Association. The brief focused on New Mexico's Equal Rights Amendment, arguing that discrimination based on pregnancy or abortion violates the ERA. In addition, the brief provided an historical analysis of New Mexico's treatment of abortion.


In a landmark decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state ERA requires that Medicaid coverage to women must be available on the same basis as coverage to men. Acknowledging that women's childbearing capacity has historically been a basis for discrimination against women, the court made clear that the state's argument that "only women get pregnant" did not answer the equal protection claim. Instead, the court found that needy women and men relying on Medicaid are similarly situated, and since Medicaid covered medically necessary treatments to men without restriction, the Court struck down the restrictions on Medicaid abortion coverage.