Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards last week called the state Legislature into a special session on abortion funding after federal officials threatened to cut the state's annual $3 billion infusion of Medicaid funds.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia denied a last-minute request by Mr. Edwards and other state officials for a stay of a lower court order that required the state to pay for abortions for poor women who are victims of rape or incest, or give up the federal money.
Prior to Justice Scalia's action, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans last week refused to delay a court order to end the state's Medicaid funding unless it paid for the abortions.
The legislative special session was set to begin on Aug. 18 and must end by Aug. 24.
Louisiana has the nation's toughest abortion law, which only allows public funding of abortions if the mother's life is in jeopardy.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Marcel Livaudais in New Orleans said Medicaid funding would be cut on Aug. 19 unless the state revised its abortion stand to conform with federal law.
State Attorney General Richard Ieyoub argued that the state shouldn't be penalized until all appeals are exhausted. He said cutting federal funding would effectively shut down Louisiana's Medicaid program. Mr. Ieyoub said the state would lose $2.8 billion in Medicaid funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Some 900,000 Louisiana residents depend on Medicaid for their healthcare services.
Louisiana's struggles with funding Medicaid won't end with the special session, however. The state is facing up to a $600 million shortfall in Medicaid funds next year because of changes in the Medicaid disproportionate-share program, which reimburses hospitals for treating large numbers of poor people.