Harris v. McRae

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In Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980), the U.S. Supreme Court held by a narrow 5-4 margin that the U.S. Constitution does not require government or taxpayer funding of abortion. The Court upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, a federal law prohibiting the expenditure of federal monies to pay for abortion.

The Court observed that:[1]

Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.

Justice Potter Stewart wrote the decision, joined by Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justices Byron White, Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist. Four liberal Justices dissented.

The narrow 5-4 margin of this decision surprises many to this day, as the Court came within one vote from declaring that the Constitution requires taxpayer-funded abortion.


  1. 448 U.S. at 325.