Today in exciting initiatives that have virtually no chance of survival in our endlessly disappointing political climate, there’s the EACH Woman Act. The bill, introduced Wednesday by female members of Congress and backed by dozens of pro-choice and human rights organizations, would mean that every woman who receives healthcare through the federal government would have coverage for abortion care.
EACH Woman—standing for Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance—was introduced by Democratic Congress members Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, Louise Slaughter and Diana DeGette. Its main aim is dismantling the Hyde Amendment, which since 1976 has stipulated that Medicaid cannot pay for abortions. The coalition behind EACH Woman is called ALL Above All, and it includes heavy hitters like Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, NARAL, the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation.
The bill would require every federal government healthcare program to fund abortion—not just Medicaid, but also Indian Health Services and health insurance for military service members. From a press release by the Center for Reproductive Rights:
The EACH Woman Act 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. The bill would also prohibit political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage of abortion care.
The ACLU says the Hyde Amendment is fundamentally unjust, preventing poor women from equal access to healthcare:
As a result of these restrictions, women who rely on the government for their healthcare do not have access to a procedure readily available to women of means and women with private insurance. A woman who does not have independent financial resources must scramble to raise the necessary funds; delay receiving abortion care, which can increase the medical risks and costs; and is often left with no choice but to carry to term in circumstances where she is physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially unprepared to or incapable of caring for a child.
There could not possibly be a more uphill battle in abortion rights than federal funding for abortion. At MSNBC today, Irin Carmon called it “the third rail of abortion politics,” pointing out the broad insurance restrictions that exist on abortion coverage in half the states in the country:
Ten states have banned all insurance coverage for abortion on any plan, except under conditions of life endangerment. (One of those states has a rape exception.) Twenty-five states ban abortion coverage on any plan sold through the exchange, and 21 ban coverage for public employees. To opponents of abortion, the phrase “taxpayer funding for abortion” is practically magic, conjuring both fears about the use of other people’s money and discomfort with abortion.
Hyde has been repeatedly found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court, and President Obama promised in a 2010 executive order that it would continue to stand as part of the Affordable Care Act. A cadre of Republicans will be along to kill this bill at any second, but until then, let’s just take a moment to reflect on how deeply necessary and long overdue it is.
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A press conference today in support of the bill. Image via NARAL/Twitter