“It’s such an interesting time in US history,” said Erin Matson, executive director of ReproAction, a six-year-old reproductive justice group. The Progressivee: “Just as the Supreme Court is on the verge of further restricting abortion, President Joe Biden has reluctantly come to support access to abortion and has provided a budget of $ 6 trillion without the Hyde amendment. “
Matson refers to the Supreme Court’s decision to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a law of 2018 which reduces the period of authorized abortion to fifteen weeks, one month before viability when the fetus is able to survive outside the womb. If a majority of judges decide that the bans on pre-viable abortion are constitutional, it will upset a standard set by Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1993, in which the court concluded that states cannot restrict abortion “unduly binding” before viability.
Not surprisingly, the definition of excessive burden has been controversial. Mandatory waiting periods and advice to deter people from choosing abortion, along with parental consent or notification requirements and insurance restrictions on coverage, have, for decades, made it difficult to access to services for many people. Nonetheless, these roadblocks have been deemed acceptable by courts across the country.
“This can be great for people who already have Medicaid, but we also need to ask ourselves what regulations will come into effect in order to implement the end of Hyde. Many reproductive health clinics are not licensed to purchase Medicaid or federal insurance plans like Tricare, and obtaining state certification can take a long time.
“The attacks on abortion have not been singularly targeted,” says Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based organization dedicated to ensuring that all people have the material support they need. need to decide when and how to start a family. .
In fact, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reports that since Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973, an incredible number of 1,313 abortion restrictions were enacted in various states. Worse, the Institute calls the first five months of 2021 the “most damaging anti-abortion legislative session on record,” with 561 restrictions, including 165 outright procedural bans introduced in forty-seven states.
Nonetheless, as Matson has indicated, there are several glimmers of hope on the horizon. With six Supreme Court anti-abortion judges and an abortion case involving Roe heading there in the next term, pro-choice activists are now looking to Congress, rather than SCOTUS, to register the right to abortion in law.
The first is the possible repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which for forty-one years banned federal Medicaid coverage for abortion unless the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or endangered life if completed. According to Planned Parenthood, 20 percent of people of childbearing age, the majority of them black and brown, have been affected by this restriction.
Hyde, however, extends beyond low-income Medicaid-eligible communities and limits access to abortion for all who depend on the federal government for their health coverage: military personnel, incarcerated people, Peace Corps volunteers. , federal workers and those who use the Indian health service.
It is estimated that 95 million adults, 29 percent of the American population, are part of this demographic.
The fact that President Biden’s 2022 tax budget makes no mention of Hyde – an endorsement that is typically added to the annual health and social services budget – for the first time since 1993, is widely praised. Its supporters say if the budget passes without Hyde, it will restore abortion coverage beyond the seventeen states that currently fund it from local revenues.
Additionally, two proactive pro-choice bills – the Women’s Health Protection Act and the 2021 Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, better known as the law name EACH – were presented to Congress and garnered support from a wide range of elected officials. Proponents of reproductive justice call the two bills essential.
As the name suggests, the Women’s Health Protection Act will enshrine access to abortion in federal law, protecting Roe deer regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, while the EACH law will ensure that anyone who receives health care or health insurance from the federal government has abortion coverage. Each law further prohibits political interference by private health insurers to prevent them from denying requests for termination of pregnancy.
“We’ve had over forty years of bad politics,” says Destiny Lopez, co-chair of All * Above All, a seven-year-old Washington, DC-based group that works to ensure abortion is accessible to all who have it. requires.
“We are trying to shake things up on the issue and expand access. In 2014, when we started our campaign, Medicaid funding for abortion was a third issue, but it now enjoys wide support. Our polls show that support for reproductive justice transcends race, ethnicity, gender, age and political parties, ”Lopez continues. “Justice and equity have wide appeal and most people agree that pregnant women shouldn’t be treated any differently just because they have low income. “
That said, Laurie Bertram Roberts of the Yellowhammer Fund cautions that supporting equality does not necessarily translate into social policy. Case in point: the failure of fourteen southern and midwestern states to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA, says Roberts, allows people with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty line – $ 17,775 for a single person and $ 36,570 for a household of four – to qualify for coverage. . “Even though the federal government will take 90 percent of the bill, these states have hesitated and proudly turned people down,” she said.
This makes Roberts somewhat reluctant to push for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment; although she supports it in theory, she considers the repeal insufficient.
“This can be great for people who already have Medicaid,” she explains, “but we also need to ask ourselves what regulations will come into effect in order to implement the end of Hyde. Many reproductive health clinics do not. not eligible for Medicaid or federal insurance plans like Tricare, and getting state certification can take a long time.
Roberts has more questions: “How do we make sure that every state has clinics that take Medicaid so that people have a place to seek treatment?” ” she asks. “And how do you make sure that the qualifying thresholds for benefits are not so low that a person with an income of $ 800 a month, in total, is considered over-income?”
Finally, she wonders about reimbursement levels and whether the amount provided will be sufficient to cover the cost of a medical or surgical abortion.
“The changes mean nothing if there is no access,” concludes Roberts. “Access to abortion care should not be different in every state. We have to change the whole landscape.
All * Above All’s Destiny Lopez agrees. “None of these changes are a panacea,” she says. “We have known for years that breaking over forty years of bad precedent will be a marathon, not a sprint. This is the first time in twenty-eight years that a clean, Hyde-free budget has been introduced. We’re clear-headed about the limits of Hyde’s repeal, expanding access to Medicaid, and passing pro-choice legislation, but we still see this as a historic moment. “