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House Lawmakers Propose Bill To End Hyde Amendment, Facilitate Equal Access to Abortion Coverage

House lawmakers on Wednesday proposed a bill (HR 2972) that would repeal the Hyde Amendment and permit federally funded insurance plans to cover abortion services, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Background

The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion care, including for women covered through Medicaid. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that about one in six women of reproductive age have coverage through Medicaid (Levy, U.S. News & World Report, 7/8).

Although the amendment is not permanent law, it has been included in appropriations measures since 1976 (Ferris, The Hill, 7/8). The amendment allows exemptions for cases of rape and incest and when the woman's life is in danger (U.S. News & World Report, 7/8).

Bill Details

Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) authored the measure, which would guarantee that women who have insurance through the federal government have abortion coverage (Bassett, Huffington Post, 7/8). The bill has about 70 co-sponsors (HR 2972 status page, 7/8).

The bill -- called the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, or EACH Woman Act -- would ensure abortion coverage for women enrolled in Medicaid, as well as federal government employees, military service members, volunteers with the Peace Corps and individuals insured via the Indian Health Service. In addition, the measure would bar state legislatures from enacting bans that prevent private insurers from covering abortion (Huffington Post, 7/8).

According to The Hill, the legislation has support from several women's health groups (The Hill, 7/8). Further, a poll conducted in June found that 56% of respondents said they supported legislation that would require Medicaid to cover abortion care (U.S. News & World Report, 7/8).

Comments

Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds Yamani Hernandez said, "The passage of the EACH Woman Act would stop the terrible wrongs of the Hyde Amendment, which, for 37 years, have fallen hardest on people of color, low-income, and youth" (All Above All press release, 7/8).

Lee said, "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."

Similarly, DeGette said, "We are done playing defense against attacks on women's health." She added, "Today's introduction of the EACH Woman Act marks the first step in our march towards the day when each and every woman can make her own decisions about pregnancy" (U.S. News & World Report, 7/8).

Lee: 'It's Past Time To End Hyde'

In related news, Lee in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece writes that the introduction of the EACH Woman Act "make[s] it clear that every woman has a right to make her own health care decisions, especially with such an important decision as whether to become a parent."

Lee explains that Congress approves the Hyde Amendment "each year to strip women of their fundamental right to access all of their health care options" by "prevent[ing] women who receive their health insurance through the federal government from receiving abortion coverage." According to Lee, "these attacks have one goal: preventing women, especially low-income women and women of color, from making the best health care decision for themselves and their families."

By contrast, Lee writes that the EACH Woman Act "is about three things: personal decisions, improved health and basic fairness."

Specifically, she notes that as "[m]ore and more politicians ... are trying to implement laws that restrict the freedom of women to make the personal decision for her and her family," her bill "trusts women to make the right decision for themselves, their health and loved ones." Further, the measure would put a stop to actions by lawmakers "looking for each and every opportunity to put women's health on the line by denying them access to all medical options," she writes. In addition, Lee states that the bill "is about equal treatment," noting that, "each year, members of Congress vote to deny women who are active duty military, veterans or insured through Medicaid access to abortion coverage."

She writes, "No matter how someone personally feels about abortion, we can all agree that allowing politicians to deny women access to all pregnancy care options just because of how she's insured or the amount of money she has is wrong" (Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/8).