In-Depth: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced this bill to protect women’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights to reproductive healthcare and ensure access to care for all women, regardless of income, race or location in the country:
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed women’s constitutional right to make their own reproductive decisions, making clear that the government has no place getting in between women and their doctors. But for decades, conservative lawmakers have worked to whittle down that constitutionally-protected right to the point where it’s now effectively inaccessible for low-income women who rely on Medicaid, for female servicemembers and for millions more women nationwide. The Supreme Court didn’t protect these rights only for wealthy women, and they didn’t say only for women who live in certain states. That kind of discrimination is not right, not fair and it’s certainly not equal—so I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the EACH Woman Act so that every woman in this country has equal access to her constitutionally-protected rights, no matter her income, her race or her zip code.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), sponsor of this bill’s House companion and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, argues that abortion is a necessary aspect of full reproductive health care:
“No woman should be denied the full spectrum of reproductive health care because of her zip code or income level – yet that is the reality for too many low-income women and women of color. The EACH Woman Act ensures that every woman is empowered to make critical decisions about her own pregnancy – and has coverage for all pregnancy-related health care, including abortion – regardless of her financial situation. I am proud to reintroduce this bill with the support of my colleagues and the trailblazing women leading the fight for reproductive justice around the country.”
The National Partnership for Women & Families supports this bill. In a fact sheet, it says:
“The ability to decide if and when to have a child is inextricably bound to a woman’s ability to support herself and her family, especially for a woman who already lives at the edge of or in poverty. Restrictions on abortion coverage target and harm women struggling to make ends meet. Research shows that approximately one in four Medicaid-eligible women with an unintended pregnancy is forced to carry that pregnancy to term because of restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortion. Studies have also shown that women who are denied an abortion are more likely to struggle financially and more likely to receive public assistance after being denied an abortion. Women denied an abortion have three times greater odds of ending up below the federal poverty line compared to women who are able to obtain abortion care.”
In 2017, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) argued that banning federal funding for abortion access is needed “to protect the conscience rights of pro-life citizens” who don’t want their tax dollars to fund abortion. The ACLJ argued that while abortion advocates argue abortion is a decision to be made between a woman and her doctor, using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions would make “every American… involved in abortions through the use of our tax dollars.” The ACLJ concludes, “Taxpayer money may be used for things various Americans disagree with all the time, but… questions of ending a vulnerable human life are something different altogether.”
While House Democratic leadership could bring this bill to a floor vote, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) certainly won’t bring it to a floor vote in the Senate. Republicans have perennially attempted to make the Hyde Amendment a permanent law, although they’ve consistently failed to meet the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority requirement for most controversial legislation.
This bill has 19 Senate cosponsors, including 18 Democrats and one Independent, in the 116th Congress. Its House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), has 126 House cosponsors, including 125 Democrats and one Republican, in the 116th Congress. Both bills have yet to receive committee votes.
In the 115th Congress, this bill was sponsored by Rep. Lee with the support of 137 Democratic House cosponsors and didn’t receive a committee vote. This bill was first introduced in the 114th Congress, when Rep. Lee introduced it with 129 Democratic cosponsors’ support and it didn’t receive a committee vote.
This bill has the support of 85 national and state reproductive health, rights and justice organizations united under the “All* Above All campaign” as well as the National Partnership for Women & Families, Guttmacher Institute, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, Center for American Progress, UltraViolet and Physicians for Reproductive Health.
Of Note: The 1976 Hyde Amendment currently bars the use of federal dollars for abortion coverage (except in the extremely limited cases of rape, incest or life endangerment) for people insured by Medicaid, the main public health insurance program for low-income people in the United States (covering one in six American women of reproductive age), as well as people with disabilities insured through Medicare. In total, 28 million women who receive health insurance through the federal government are currently unable to receive federally-subsidized abortions because of the Hyde Amendment, so some state Medicaid programs provide the funding.
Since the Hyde Amendment’s passage, Hyde-like funding restrictions on abortion have been expanded to apply to women enrolled in Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as well as women in the military, women in federal prisons, Native American women, women in the Peace Corps and low-income women in the District of Columbia.
Additionally, state legislatures have imposed their own expansions of the Hyde Amendment. From 2010 to March 2019, 26 states banned abortion coverage in plans offered through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace; 22 states passed bans on coverage for abortion for state public employees; and 11 states banned private insurance plans from covering abortion care. In total, politicians have enacted over 400 restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion at the state level over the period 2011-2019.
The Hyde Amendment has historically had bipartisan support in Congress, routinely passing during the annual appropriations process without much challenge. Since the Hyde Amendment’s passage in 1976, presidents from each major political party have held office and supported it: President Carter supported the Hyde Amendment as it faced legal challenges all the way to the Supreme Court; Presidents Reagan and Bush supported it from 1981 to 1993; although President Bill Clinton campaigned against it in 1992, he continued to sign a slightly modified version of the Hyde Amendment into law each year that allowed for taxpayer funding to be used for abortions through Medicaid funding in cases of rape and incest; President George W. Bush supported the Hyde Amendment for both of his terms; and the Obama administration enshrined the Hyde Amendment enshrined the Hyde Amendment in Executive Order 13535, which establishes “an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment.”
The ban on federal funds for abortion coverage forces women on federal health insurance plans to pay out of pocket costs in the hundreds of dollars when the procedure isn’t covered by their state’s Medicaid plan. Additionally, as the cost of an abortion increases over time, the Guttmacher Institute reports that these high out of pocket costs can trap women in “a cruel cycle in which the delays associated with raising the money to pay for an abortion lead to additional costs and delays.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / jimplumb)