On Tuesday, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act, along with 102 other members of Congress, in an effort to make insurance coverage for abortion available to all women, regardless of income, type of insurance or zip code. It was first introduced in 2015, and the Speaker has refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.
The EACH Woman Act would prohibit federal, state and local governments from passing laws that restrict private health insurance companies from offering abortion care, and restore abortion insurance coverage to the 28 million women who receive health insurance through the federal government and are currently denied coverage for an abortion procedure through the 1976 Hyde Amendment.
Hyde essentially creates two separate categories of American women: those who can afford to access their constitutional rights and those who cannot. Those who cannot include Native Americans, veterans, federal prisoners, employees of the federal government, and the 1 in 6 American women of reproductive age who are enrolled in Medicaid.
“I was a staffer for the great Congressman Ron Dellums, a Democrat representing California’s ninth district, when the Hyde amendment was attached to the federal budget for the first time,” writes Rep. Lee. “I was shocked that so soon after Roe v. Wade established the legal right to abortion, Rep. Hyde sought to strip that right from low-income women. In the 40 years that the Hyde amendment has persisted, my moral outrage at its blatant discrimination against poor women has not wavered. Neither has my resolve to see it dismantled once and for all.”
While the Hyde Amendment is typically a rule included in the annual appropriations bill, the House voted last week to codify it through H.R. 7, known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that attempts to block all women from accessing health insurance that covers abortion care, standing in direct opposition to the mission of the EACH Woman Act.
A ban on federal funds for abortion coverage forces women to pay out of pocket costs averaging over $350, a substantial burden that forces one in four poor women seeking an abortion to carry their pregnancy to term. Studies show that women who seek abortion but are denied are more likely to slip into poverty than women who are able to get an abortion.
In addition to making permanent the federal abortion funding restrictions, H.R. 7 would deny tax subsidies to women who purchase health insurance that covers abortion care in the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 25 states have already enacted laws that forbid the selling of abortion care in the ACA marketplace. Small businesses would also be affected, as those that choose health insurance plans that cover abortion would be denied the insurance related tax credits that apply to small businesses.
“These new attempts to bully, shame and punish women for reproductive health decisions come on the heels of new research showing the health disparities experienced by women of color who are not able to get the reproductive health care they need are even worse than previously thought,” continues Rep. Lee. “The new administration has made one thing clear: the health and wellbeing of our sisters, mothers, friends and families have been placed on the chopping block.”
Advocates of abortion access fear that eliminating tax subsidies and implementing strict regulations will push insurance companies to stop covering abortion for all women, as they are unlikely to offer a product that so many are effectively barred from purchasing.
The Feminist Majority Foundation is committed to working with All* Above All to pass the EACH Woman Act and increase women’s access to abortion care. Tell Congress to pass the EACH Woman Act.
Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation 9/28/16, 1/24/17; Time 1/31/17;