We should all be able to make our own faith-informed decisions about our health and access safe, affordable care.
I HAVE long believed that every woman should be able to make her own faith-informed decisions about her health, family and future. Abortion access is integral to the human right to family planning and reproductive care. For me, this issue is personal: My views are informed by my own journey, which began many years ago.
My abortion involved no drama. It happened when I was a very young college student. I was lucky that I lived in a state where I could access the care I needed. I was fortunate that my abortion was covered by my health insurance. I received professional, unbiased counseling and financial support so I could afford the cost of traveling to an excellent clinic where I got the best available care. As I witness what is happening across this country, I realize just how lucky I was.
Today, thousands of women are denied this same respect and dignity due to one of the highest barriers to abortion access: the federal Hyde Amendment. Each year for the last 40 years, politicians in Congress have used this policy to interfere in a woman’s health care decisions by banning abortion coverage in the Medicaid health-insurance program. While initially designed to push abortion out of reach of low-income women, this restriction has since been expanded to deny coverage to Native Americans, women serving in our Armed Services, U.S. government employees and their dependents, among others.
I see the impact of this regressive policy in my role as a public-health nurse. Sadly, my hands are tied — this policy prevents my patients from getting the care they need and deserve. Despite being allowed coverage for other reproductive-health services, women enrolled in federal health insurance cannot access abortion without paying for care out of pocket. By denying coverage for abortion, politicians have made it inaccessible. This ban falls hardest on women struggling to make ends meet, who are more likely to be people of color, young, immigrants, transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals, or those in rural communities.
The Hyde Amendment has far-reaching consequences. It forces a woman to struggle mightily in a race against time to shuffle scarce dollars, a hardship that is magnified if she also must overcome the hurdles of finding a licensed provider nearby and with a timely appointment slot. Taking dollars from rent to pay for care may bring the threat of eviction or going without food. No woman should ever be put in a position to decide between supporting her family and getting the care she needs. Unfortunately, we know this is happening. Research shows that when a woman seeking abortion is denied access, she is more likely to fall into poverty than someone who can obtain this care.
The Hyde Amendment has far-reaching consequences. It forces a woman to struggle mightily in a race against time to shuffle scarce dollars.”
Treating a woman differently by denying her access to abortion just because she is poor goes against my Jewish values. No matter her life circumstances, every woman seeking abortion should have an experience that, like mine, respects her dignity. We should all be able to make our own faith-informed decisions about our health and access safe, affordable care.
Thankfully, Congress has a solution to end this discriminatory public-health-policy nightmare: the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (EACH Woman Act). This bold legislation would lift Hyde and similar federal bans and prevent politicians from interfering in the coverage provided by private health insurers. It would ensure every woman is able to access the full range of reproductive care that aligns with her own faith — no matter how much money she has, how she is insured or where she lives. I applaud U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott and Adam Smith for endorsing the EACH Woman Act, and urge Washington’s remaining four members of Congress to join in support of this critical measure.
When insurance covers the costs of all pregnancy-related care, including abortion, it means a woman can make a personal decision about her health and future based on her own faith and circumstances. Every justice-focused member of Congress should act to end all bans on abortion coverage. It’s high time to restore respect and autonomy for each of us with the EACH Woman Act.