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Governor Gregoire Responds to Federal Government Decision to Treat All Babies Equally

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2007

Governor had sued federal government over policy that violated equal protection clause in U.S. Constitution

OLYMPIA Governor Chris Gregoire, who two weeks ago announced a lawsuit against the federal government to stop discrimination against newborn U.S. citizens, today responded to the announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that they will voluntarily cease this discrimination and treat equally all babies born in the U.S.

The Constitution could not be more clear: babies born in the U.S. are citizens, regardless of who their parents are. As citizens, these babies are legally entitled to be treated the same as any other newborn U.S. citizen - it is a basic issue of equality, said Governor Gregoire. I am pleased that the federal government recognizes this and has made the right decision to treat all newborn babies equally.

The administration recently extended Medicaid identity and citizenship verification requirements to apply to some newborns born in the United States. The U.S. Constitution is clear that any person born in the United States is automatically a citizen, but the new federal rules would have required states to withhold Medicaid coverage for babies born in the United States to undocumented immigrants until an application with proof of citizenship is processed and approved.

Governor Gregoire on March 5 filed for a declaratory judgment and injunction in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma and announced she would not implement the federal policy until the lawsuit is resolved.

Nearly 8,000 infant citizens in Washington would have been immediately affected by these new rules. The lengthy application and approval process would have delayed care for these newborn citizens and it is likely that many immigrant parents would have avoided the application process altogether, leaving their newborns without necessary health care and instead relying on more costly emergency room services.