Democratic women in the U.S. House on July 8 introduced legislation that would ensure women have access to health insurance coverage for abortion care and remove a federal policy denying many poor women access to abortion services.
The legislation comes as Republican leaders in some states, including Wisconsin, continue to push measures intended to restrict women’s access to care. U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Diana DeGette of Colorado are the chief sponsors of the federal Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act.
“We are done playing defense against attacks on women’s health,” said DeGette. The “introduction of the EACH Woman Act marks the first step in our march toward the day when each and every woman can make her own decisions about pregnancy.”
Advocates described the EACH Woman Act as groundbreaking legislation that would ensure all women have access to health insurance coverage for abortion services, no matter how much money they make, what insurance plan they have or where they live.
The bill would void the Hyde Amendment, a policy prohibiting federal Medicaid coverage for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. First passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has had a severely disproportionate impact on women who already face significant barriers to health care, such as low-income women, immigrant women, young women and women of color.
The measure would restore coverage for abortion services to women enrolled in insurance plans and programs offered or managed by the federal government, including Medicaid, Medicare, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Indian Health Services and TRICARE, the federal health care program for military families.
“A majority of Americans agree that a woman enrolled in Medicaid should have all pregnancy-related health care covered by her insurance, including abortion services,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “And among young people and people of color, that opinion is a tidal wave. We are ready to change the game in Washington. We are organized, making phone calls, knocking on doors and paying visits to our members of Congress. We are ready to do what it takes to make the Hyde Amendment history.”
The bill also would prohibit political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage of abortion care.
Such restrictions on coverage for abortion services seriously impact women across the United States, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
According to recent data, approximately one in six women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid and more than a million women are federal employees. And studies show that when politicians place restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion, it forces one in four poor women seeking an abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
“The EACH Woman Act would finally guarantee every woman can get the reproductive health care she needs, no matter how much money she makes or where she lives,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Also, earlier this year, Democratic U.S. Reps. Judy Chu of California, Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Lois Frankel of Florida reintroduced the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill would prohibit states from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on health care providers that interfere with women’s personal decision-making and block access to abortion services.
The National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion care providers, operates a hotline — 800-772-9100 — which receives about 5,000 calls each week from women facing restrictions on access to reproductive care.
Wisconsin, under the governorship of Republican Scott Walker and with GOP majorities in the Legislature, has enacted a series of measures intended to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care.
By the numbers
A newly released poll conducted by Hart Research found that 86 percent of voters agree, “however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.”
Support was strong across age ranges and the statement won the support of 79 percent of Republicans surveyed.