Rep. Barbara Lee and two other House members led 70 Democrats in introducing a bill Wednesday that would require Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded health insurance to provide coverage for abortions.
The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, or the EACH Woman Act, essentially would end the Hyde Amendment policy – a legislation “rider” attached to annual spending bills since 1976 that bans use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion except in cases of incest or rape.
“Each and every day, the rights of women are under attack in America – today, we push back because every person has a right to healthcare,” Lee, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “The EACH Woman Act is a bold and groundbreaking step forward. This legislation would ensure that every woman can access all of her healthcare options, regardless of how much money she earns or where she lives.”
“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 healthcare decisions just because she is poor.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., joined Lee in introducing the bill – which probably is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House.
Lee’s office quoted a recent poll by Hart Research which found 86 percent of voters agreed that “however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.” Support for that statement was strong across all age ranges, and stood at 79 percent of Republican surveyed.
The bill is supported by 33 national and state organizations. Policies like the Hyde Amendment and state insurance bans have withheld coverage for safe, legal abortion care for too long, said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation.
“It’s unconscionable that we have allowed politicians to take away some women’s decisions just because of where they live or their income level,” Saporta said. “The EACH Woman Act would ensure health coverage for abortion for every woman no matter what type of insurance she has, where she lives, or how much money she has.”
Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said most Americans agree a woman enrolled in Medicaid should have all of her pregnancy-related healthcare covered by insurance, including abortion.
“And among young people and people of color, that opinion is a tidal wave,” she said. “We are ready to change the game in Washington. We are organized, making phone calls, knocking on doors, and paying visits to our members of Congress. We are ready to do what it takes to make Hyde history.”
National Right to Life, the nation’s oldest and largest anti-abortion-rights organization, didn’t answer an email Wednesday seeking comment on the legislation.
UPDATE @ 10:19 A.M. THURSDAY: Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, got back to me Thursday morning.
“There is empirical evidence that well over one million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment, probably much closer to two million,” he said. “The one to two million Americans alive today because of the Hyde Amendment include, no doubt, many constituents of Congresswoman Lee. We think that each of these human lives has great worth. Contrary to the premises of the bill, we believe that pregnancy is not a disease, and we believe that elective abortion is not health care.”