House Democrats Introduce Bill Requiring Medicaid to Cover Abortion

by Elizabeth Ollero

Imagine you are a woman of reproductive age, low-income, and use Medicaid as your health insurance. Now imagine that you are pregnant, and you wish to have an abortion. You have made the decision that you cannot afford to raise a child, or perhaps you’re not ready, or don’t want a child. Whatever, you are entitled to have your reason. Well! I hope you have a wad of cash stashed away, because Medicaid won’t cover your abortion. A federal health care program intended for low-income people does not cover abortion. They do not cover a solution to a problem that would exacerbate their poverty! Babies are expensive. Kids are expensive. Pregnancy is expensive. Did you know that? $10,000. A child’s first year costs about $10,000. So if a woman is relying on her health insurance to cover her abortion because she can’t afford it, how exactly is she expected to afford this child when she can’t even afford the abortion (which, while expensive, most certainly is not $10,000)? This is madness!

So now we’re all on the same page. Medicaid should cover abortions because, well, it makes sense! The price of one abortion is much cheaper than raising a child. That’s besides the fact that a woman should not be forced to carry a child to full term, whether she has the intention of raising this child or not, just because she cannot afford to terminate her pregnancy.

The Hyde Amendment is what prevents Medicaid from covering abortion, and has been doing so since 1976.

My good friend (not) Representative Henry Hyde, author of the amazing Hyde Amendment, said, “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.” What a man! What a bill! Grumpy Hyde wasn’t getting his way, so he took away whatever rights he could. It doesn’t matter to him anyway; he doesn’t have a uterus, he can afford an abortion, and I doubt anybody would let him get close enough to impregnate them anyway. Oops.

Back to the present: the Democrats come to the rescue!

House Democrats want Medicaid to cover abortion! Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Col.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act that would require Medicaid to cover abortion services, which the Hyde Amendment currently bans (thanks again, Hyde!). Representative Barbara Lee is clear in the necessity of the bill, saying, “regardless of how someone personally feels about abortion, none of us, especially elected officials, should be interfering with a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions just because she is poor.” Damn straight! You tell ‘em, Barb!

A coalition called All Above All, which includes Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, has led the effort to end the Hyde Amendment. The president of the Planned Parenthood Action fund, Cecile Richard, said “For far too long, this country has penalized low-income women seeking abortion — forcing those who have the least to pay the most in order to access safe, legal care.” Duh. The Hyde Amendment makes about zero sense.

And (I can’t believe there’s an “and”) not only does the Hyde Amendment affect Medicaid, but its restrictions also apply to the health services available to female federal employees, military service members, Peace Corps volunteers, Native Americans, federal detainees, and low-income women in the District of Columbia. So yeah, maybe you were in the military and fought for our freedom, but let us restrict yours and prevent you from getting an abortion! That’s logical, right?

Unfortunately, this bill probably won’t fly in the Republican-controlled Congress. But now you’re informed, enraged, and ready to fight! Or maybe go sign a petition somewhere online.

Images via Twitter, The Nation


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