In a long overdue step to ensuring access to health insurance coverage for abortion for low-income women, Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) today introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act. This Act would make insurance coverage for abortion available to all women, regardless of income, type of insurance, or zipcode.
All Above All, a coalition of over fifty organizations, including The Feminist Majority, joined several members of Congress, including Rosa DeLauro, Lois Frankel, Mike Honda, Brenda Lawrence, and Jerrold Nadler, to make the bills introduction and to condemn federal restrictions that prevent low-income women from being able to access safe abortion care.
“The amount of money a woman has or doesn’t have should never prevent her from having an abortion,” said Congresswoman Lee.
Since the passage of the Hyde amendment in 1976, Congress has withheld coverage for abortion services from women insured through the Medicaid program. Approximately 1 in 6 women are enrolled in Medicaid are of reproductive age. To date, only 17 states provide state Medicaid coverage for all or most medically necessary abortions. Medicaid restriction often creates an insurmountable barrier to abortion for women already struggling to make ends meet and disproportionally impacts women of color.
“For too long, low-income women have been denied abortion coverage just because they can’t afford it and live in a state without coverage,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal in a press release. “The size of your paycheck and which state you live in should not determine access.”
The Act would also prevent federal, state, and local government from restricting insurance coverage of abortion in private health insurance plans, including plans purchased on health insurance exchanges created through the Affordable Care Act. Across the country, legislators have attempted – sometimes successfully – to limit access to abortion by placing restrictions on ACA plans or private insurers, putting women’s health at risk, especially low-income women.
In 2012, Iowa lawmakers filed a petition with the state’s Department of Human Services in an attempt to end all Medicaid funding for abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. In July of last year, Georgia enacted a law banning coverage of abortion in health insurance plans purchased in the state marketplace and an law that restricted access to abortion for folks on Medicaid in Alaska by defining, on strict terms, when it was “medically necessary” was challenged by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
“Politically motivated attacks on women’s access to abortion must end,” said Feminist Majority Policy Director Gaylynn Burroughs. “The EACH Woman Act takes a huge step forward by preventing politicians from playing games with women’s lives by deciding which services their health insurance can and cannot cover.”
Media Resources: Feminist Majority 7/8/15; Feminist Newswire 6/20/12, 7/10/14, 7/18/14; Everyday Feminism 1/6/13